Airén Gets Around
Airén is the most planted grape in Spain. It’s grown primarily in the central part of the country in Castilla-La Mancha. This central plain region is also home to the capital, Madrid. A white wine grape, Airén has a great aroma of melon and papaya with similar tasting tropical flavors, in addition to lime and kiwi. When well made, it is medium bodied and has a nutty finish. It is used in the production of brandy also.
Airén is a perfect spring-summer wine. With a refreshing taste and low alcohol level, it won’t make you feel tired or give you an afternoon buzz. It’s an easy, sipping wine. When blended with Macabeo, Pedro XImenez or Muscat, it gives a boost to the fruity liveliness.
By Any Other Name
The Spaniards have an unusual practice of renaming grapes. Spain is approximately twice the size of Oregon, but many of the people do not identify solely as Spaniards. I’m not sure why they feel the need to change the name of a grape from region to region. But they do. Perhaps it is done to assume a closer identity with the local region, people and their language or dialect. Whatever the reason, this renaming game has happened to the grape variety Airén. Throughout the country, you’ll find it referred to as Lair, Manchego and Forcayat Valdepeñero. However, it’s the same grape.
Depending on the list, Airén is noted as the most planted grape in the world. This is due to its ability to adapt to extreme hot weather and thrive with little or no rain. It also produces high yields, which is great for winemakers looking to make cheap wine to pass off on the masses. But, it’s also produced with care using lower yields and well-cared-for fruit.
With the weather finally turning warmer for the Midwest and Northeast, having a glass of Airén is a great way to welcome Spring. Look for a bottle at your local wine shop.
Here are a few suggestions:
- Bodegas Cristo de la Vega Marques de Castilla Airén, La Mancha $8
- Yemaneuva Airen de Pie Franco, Castilla-La Mancha $15
- Bino Ambiz Normal Airén, Madrid $19