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Home | White Grape Varieties MP | Albarino - Summer fun


Albarino - Summer fun

As the meteorological start to summer in the northern hemisphere fast approaches, what better time to add a light, bright and refreshing white to your quiver of wine arrows.  Albarino is a prolific, disease resistant white grape grown extensively in the Galicia region of Spain and the Vinho Verde region of Portugal to the south.  Like so many grape varieties, Albarino is thought to have made its trek west from Eastern Europe, more specifically Germany in the twelfth century.  “Alba” meaning white, and “Rino” meaning Rhine, gives rise to the thought that Albarino may be a Riesling derivative from Germany or the Alsace region of France.  Regardless of origins, Albarino took a liking to the cool moist climes of western Spain and Portugal.

Where is Albarino Grown?

Spain – The most well-known plantings of Albarino are located in the Rias Baixas (Ree-ass Buy-shass.) region in the province of Galicia. Tucked into the northwestern most part of Spain, and bordered on two sides by the Atlantic, Galicia enjoys a cool maritime climate producing grapes that are high in natural acidity and lower in sugar and hence potential alcohol.  The Denominación de Origen (DO) of Rias Baixas allows for wines made from twelve different varieties however Albarino accounts for over 90% of the wines produced from the region.  Albarino is occasionally used in a white blend, however since the late 1900's the focus has been on crafting crisp, aromatic, and clean wines, targeted at the International market.

Spain producers to look for:  Bodegas Forjas del Salnés, La Bodega La Val , and DO Ferreiro.


Portugal – In far northern Portugal just over the Mino River that scribes the border between the two Iberian countries lies the small sub region of Moncao. Here, the wine is Vinho Alvarinho (Portuguese name for Albarino) and the grapes are grown everywhere from pergolas, telephone poles to more modern trellising systems.  Given some relief from the cool Atlantic influences by a coastal mountain range, Vinho Alvarinho has a bit more alcohol than its northern neighbor, and the fruit aromas wax ripe tropical.

Portuguese producers to look for: Quinta das Touquinheiras Clémen, Muros Antigos, Quinta de Serrade, and Quinta da Aveleda.



Australia – Albarino has an interesting history in the vineyards of Australia.  Originally brought to the continent in 1989, many Australian producers began planting the prolific grape in earnest and have been producing Albarino for years.  There was only one problem.  In 2009  a top French ampelographer touring Australia was confused while examining Albarino vines.  DNA testing later confirmed that acres of Albarino were in fact Savagnin, or Traminer, a white grape variety from eastern France – whoops!  Today there is much Savagnin produced in Australia, and several dedicated producers beginning anew with certified Albarino vines.

United States – Several California wineries are experimenting with small plantings of Albarino.  According to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the total 2013 vineyard acreage was a mere 194 acres (compare this to over 94,000 for Chardonnay).  The vineyards are concentrated in the cooler regions of the Central Coast and in and around Lodi and Clarksburg. Most wineries' annual production of Albarino is well under 100 cases, frequently snapped up by a small but loyal local following.  Stylistically wines from the coastal regions mimic the high acidity and lower alcohol wines from Spain while the inland producers take advantage of the warmer climate to bring out greater alcohol, reduced acidity, and greater body.

California producers to look for:  Verdad Wines (Santa Ynez), Bodegas Paso Robles (Paso Robles), Riaza Wines (Lodi),

Albarino Styles

Albarino from the Old World has a bit of a reputation for being uniform.  The reasons are not clear although most commonly cited is the lack of emphasis and experimentation on specific vineyard plots that might emphasize terroir.  Albarino is a straw colored, light bodied, acidic (often with a hint of CO2 sparkle), fruit aroma dominant wine.  Albarino wines seldom see oak, and are most commonly fermented in stainless steel or a combination of stainless steel and neutral barrels. 

Albarino from parts of the United States and Australia can be stylistically different, bringing out the effects of a longer, warmer growing season to yield wines higher in body, alcohol and aromas that migrate from green apple and tropical fruit to aromas of apricot, peach, and pears.

Made to be consumed soon after release, Albarino is a perfect wine for the summer months, complimenting fish, light cheeses, or even a fruit plate. Regardless of style, Albarino belongs on everyone's summer required tasting list!

 

Smell

 

 

Taste

 

Feel

 

Price

 

Green Apple

Apricot

White Peach
Melon
Mango

Banana





 

Dry 

Light bodied – Albarino is almost exclusively a very light bodied, crisp wine.


Medium to high acidity.

 

Low to medium alcohol levels (8.5% - 13%).

 

No Tannins

 

 

Most Albarino wines from the Spain and Portugal are less than $20.  Some of the more well-known producers command prices in the $20 - $50 range.

 




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·  Pecorino - Cheese or Wine?
·  Viognier - To the brink and back
·  Marsanne - Always a Bridesmaid, Never a Bride
·  Rías Baixas
·  Wine Labels from Portugal
·  5 White Wines you have to try!


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