Albariño- A Spanish delight.
An amazing white grape variety at home in Rias Baixas Spain and Vinho Verde Portugal but that’s getting a lot of international attention.
The Grapes Characteristics.
Crisp and refreshing with 'lip-smacking' high acid balanced with a fruity profile means a great Albariño is hard to beat!
The flavours are dominated by citrus moving through lemon, lime and often grapefruit. Other common flavours are apple blossom, peach, nectarine, melon. The more complex wines can have subtle notes of almonds and an almost salty or flinty character and these are the wines to look out for. This highly aromatic wine contains two key compounds; thiols and terpenes. Terpenes generally correspond to floral aromas and thiols to fruity aromas like grapefruit.
Aged examples are less commonly seen by can develop nutty, waxy and hay-like aromas and can be extremely pleasant. Barrel ageing is an increasingly used technique but again is far from common.
A notable feature of this grape is its thick skins. These skins prevent the grapes from becoming rotten in the very damp climates where it is commonly grown. These thick skins also provide a lot of the grapes aroma profile.
Rias Baixas in Galicia is the home of Spanish Albariño. These are incredibly sought after and can reach premium prices. In Rias Baixas, there are five subzones and Albarino is planted in each. Val do Salnés arguably produces the finest wines.
In Portugal, the grape is called Alvarinho. It is commonly grown in Vinho Verde in the far north-west of the country. In Vinho Verde Alvarinho is used both as a blending partner to the other white grapes, Arinto and Loureiro being the most common. Alvarinho is also produced as a single varietal. In a small sub-region of Monção e Melgaço single varietal Alvarinho can be called ‘Vinho Verde Alvarinho’. In this sub-appellation, the wines typically have more tropical fruit flavours and often slightly higher levels of alcohol.
Dão and Lisboa
Although far more celebrated for its red wines Dão does produce some Alvarinho. In Lisboa, plantings are again lower but both areas produce Alvarinho with more tropical fruit flavours due to the warmer climate.
Even though Albariño is known for being perfectly adapted to the damp climates of Rias Baixas and Vinho Verde it also grows well in the heat. Australia has been producing some excellent examples, although it was discovered many were actually an entirely different variety called Savagnin.
Always looking for the next great grape trend there aren’t many varieties that haven’t been tried in New Zealand. Albariño suits the climate and can cope in the wetter sites, where Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc would struggle. Plantings are increasing rather rapidly and there are some excellent and affordable Albariño wines being produced.
California, Oregon and Washington, the three key states for grape growing in America all have some Albariño plantings.
Albariño is far from widely planted but is grown in Brazil, Uruguay, Chile and Argentina.