His name is Aldo Sohm. He’s the wine director at Maguy Le Coze’s gastronomic palace, Le Bernardin, on West 51st Street. You may have seen Aldo on the “Today” show or the CBS “Early Show,” or heard him on Martha Stewart Radio’s “Winesday.” To say the least, when it comes to food and wine pairings, when Sohm speaks, gastronomes listen.
In 2006, Sohm was named “Best Sommelier in New York.” Two years later, he walked off with “Best Sommelier in the World” honors. For those of us who know the acuity of Sohm’s palate and the laser-like precision of his selections, neither award came as much of a surprise.
Chef Eric Ripert’s cuisine is impeccable for its purity and inspired simplicity. There is no greater culinary treat in the United States than Ripert’s “Barely Touched” plates, particularly when the accompanying wines have been hand-selected by Sohm. Ripert’s creations? Ultra Rare Smoked Sea Trout; Pickled Red Onion, Citrus-Miso Emulsion. Sautéed Langoustine; Truffle and Chanterelle, Aged Balsamic Vinaigrette. Warm Octopus "Carpaccio"; Leek Compote, Peruvian Anticucho Sauce. Aldo Sohm’s wine pairings? Mineral Chablis. Austrian Grüner Veltliner. High-tension Sancerre. Dry Chenin Blancs from Montlouis and Vouvray.
Occasionally, Sohm can’t help but toss in an eclectic curveball. Such was the case last week on 51st Street, when Aldo surprised diners with one of the most extraordinary Spanish whites we’ve tasted in some time, this crisp, fabulously mineral Albariño from legendary Benito Santos.
The vineyards of Rías Baixas are located in northwestern Spain, within the province of Pontevedra in Galicia. There are just 8,650 acres under vine, divided into almost 20,000 distinct plots, farmed by over 6,000 growers! The best Albariño plantings are located above the town of Cambados in Val do Salnés. The soils are impossibly rocky. Beneath the alluvial topsoil, the substrata is packed with granite. It’s on this rugged terrain that Benito Santos’ Viñedo de Xoan was planted 85 years ago, in 1930.
In the superb 2014 vintage, from a tiny 5.6-hectare vineyard named after the ancient church of Saiar, winemaker José Antonio Porto crafted a luscious, crisp, and fantastically mineral Albariño that took even Aldo Sohm by surprise. Particularly when paired with Chef Ripert’s Sautéed Langoustine, the 2014 “Igrexario de Saiar” sings, magnifying the salty intensity of the shellfish, while adding subtle tone to the balsamic with its almost briny salinity.
Tasted out of Aldo Sohm’s preferred Zalto Universal stemware, the 2014 Benito Santos Albariño Igrexario de Saiar Rías Baixas is brilliant green-gold in color. Mouthwatering aromas of white peach, melon, tangerine, and orange zest. Tightly wound, mineral, and juicy on the attack, filled with ripe citrus, and stoney pear, finishing with terrific saline persistence. Drink now-2018.
Just 250 cases made it stateside, most earmarked for the likes of Mr. Sohm at Le Bernardin. $25 on release. $17.99 today on WineAccess. 600 bottles are up for grabs.
Opened one bottle a week after delivery. Too young and still in bottle sickness, yet the four-star potential is definitely there. Balanced and complex, showing iodine and saline qualities. Hold 3-6 months before getting deep into these. Definite improvement ahead.
What a delicious Albarino! A clear step up from many nice easy drinkers showing the potential that Albarino has. Drink by itself or with food.
Its an Albarino. Some fruit, no citrus, mellow without the zing, lots if minerals. Good on a hot day.
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