What is the most common grape variety in the world? Depending on how that question is interpreted one of the answers that should come your way is Airén, Spain’s most planted, but still obscure, grape. More accurately it is the acreage of this variety that is the most abundant – Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chradonnay all have more vines globally – as Airén is planted to a mich lower density compared to its more well known cousins.
This isn’t an article on the Spanish White grape though, at least not directly. If you want details, facts and figures check out Fringe Wine’s blog post from earlier this year or CataVino’s post from a few years ago. No, this post is merely as a future reminder to me that, after 6 years of serious wine obsession (including over a year of seeking out unusual or uncommon varieties), I finally had my first Airén wine…. and that it did nothing to make me want another one!
The wine in question was the Castillo de Soldepenas Blanco, a non-vintage wine courtesy of Costco. To be fair I didn’t actually buy this wine (I think it retails for about £3 a bottle) as it was a giveaway for renewing Costco membership, but I don’t believe you can easily find this variety in much higher price ranges no matter how hard you look – telling you something about its role in the Wine World (of course there will be the occasional quality example to prove the rule, but you know what I mean).
At 12% alcohol this wine was a D.O. Valdepeñas (Castile-La Mancha) with a light floral, not unpleasant nose. However, on the palate it was somewhat insipid; thin, lacking body and depth of flavour. There was some bitterness throughout with a lemon sherbet undertone, but the acidity was too obvious, without any compensating factors.
The only consolation was that it worked well as a spritzer with a touch of flavoured fizzy water (tangerine seemed the best) – a shocking admission I agree, but when a wine can’t be enjoyed on its own the only other alternative is down the sink!
I’ve just drained the last drop from my glass, “neat” this time to reconfirm my original notes and impressions. I’ll call this wine a 77 pointer and be done with it, onto the next bottle of something more interesting.