Australia: our Albariño is the real thing

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  • Friday 13 February 2009

Australian winemakers insist their Albariño is the real thing despite tests casting doubt on the authenticity of the grape.

Last year French ampelographer Jean-Michel Boursiquot suspected that an Albariño vine in the Barossa Valley was in fact White Traminer, or Savagnin, a grape most closely associated with the Jura region of France.

Subsequent DNA identification carried out in France corroborated this.

But Australian growers have compared their Albariño vines with definitive identifying varietal markers used by Spanish researchers, and come to different conclusions.

Barossa winemaker Damien Tscharke, one of the largest growers of Albariño in Australia, said ‘Savagnin typically has one cylindrical cluster per bunch, and one seed per grape. Albariño typically has two conical clusters and two seeds per berry. I’m standing here in the vineyard looking at conical clusters and tasting two-seed grapes.’

Albariño specialist Angela Martin, of Castro Martin in Rias Baixas, visiting Melbourne this week, went to Crittenden Estate on the Mornington Peninsula and said, ‘What I saw - the leaves, the little golden yellow grapes - were very much like what I’m used to working with back in Galicia.’

Martin pointed out that the origins of Albariño in Spain are uncertain, and that there are many different clones of the variety.

Some researchers believe Albariño and White Traminer may be closely related or even clones of the same cultivar.

More accurate identification of the Albariño growing in Australia is underway. This work is expected to take at least two months.

Meanwhile many in Australia believe Albariño is one of the most promising of all the emerging, non-mainstream white varieties as it is well suited to Australian growing conditions.

There are 36 vineyards with 57ha of Albariño in South Australia alone, and there are more than a dozen examples of the variety already on the market, with many more due to appear in the next year.

Steve Guy, compliance manager for the Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation, says that Australian producers should continue to label and market their wines as Albariño.

The AWBC Act says that ‘where there is uncertainty about (a grape) variety’, winemakers can label their wine as ‘whichever variety the wine manufacturer ... considers on reasonable grounds most likely to be that variety’.

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