Mucho airén

Cool packaging is one way this company is trying to breathe new life to airén, the most planted grape variety in Spain. Pronounced eye-ren, this wine, from Second Story Selections, smelled faintly like honeysuckle, was crisp and fresh with a lime peel finish. It was long on the palate and a light lemon color. Not fancy, not complex, good summer drinking wine that should be on the shelf for $9.99.

From the OCW:

Spain’s most planted vine variety, and one that is planted at such a low vine density that its vineyards cover more area than any other white wine variety in the world, 305,000 ha/753,350 acres in 2004, despite vigorous vine pull schemes in La Mancha where, as in Valdepeñas, it is by far the most planted variety. The resultant wine is the major ingredient in the important Spanish brandy business. In central Spain it has traditionally been blended with dark-skinned Cencibel (tempranillo) grapes, which are steadily replacing Airén, to produce light red wines. It is increasingly vinified as an inexpensive white wine, however, nowadays using temperature control to yield crisp, slightly neutral dry white wines for early consumption. In several ways, therefore, Airén is the Spanish equivalent of France’s ugni blanc. Airén vines are trained into low bushes and have remarkable resistance to the droughts which plague central Spanish viticulture. The variety is also grown around Madrid and in Andalucía, where it is known as Lairén.

In hot central Spain, the freestanding airén vines stretch on for miles.

I’m not as excited about this wine as John Halloran was, but it could be a wine to offer when customers ask for pinot grigio, which Dennis refuses to have on the wine list (whatever, we have pinot gris). It’s neutral, but not watery, but it does have a bitter finish.


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