Native to the coastal region of Galicia, Albariño (also referred to as Alvarinho) is one of the key white grape varieties of the Iberian Peninsula.
The grape is characterised by high acidity and thick skins, as well as its ability to respond well to excessive humidity and heat. The names Albariño and Alvarinho derive from the word albo, which means white in Latin.
Albariño wine styles
Wines produced from Albariño span a variety of flavour profiles and styles. Most commonly, Albariño wines are dry, show flavours of peach, apricot, citrus, and white flowers, and clock in around 11.5-12.5% ABV. When used to create Portugal’s signature Vinho Verde wines, the bottles are often labeled varietally (Alvarinho, as opposed to Vinho Verde) so as to separate it from the more common Loureiro-based assemblages of the region.
Although most frequently vinified into crisp and mineral-driven mono-varietal wines, producers of Albariño will sometimes implement lees ageing to add texture, richness, and weight to these relatively light-bodied cuvées. Oak ageing can also be used to add the same effect. Most Albariño-based wines, particularly from the Iberian Peninsula, show a signature saline-tinged characteristic, due to the vines’ proximity to the Atlantic Ocean. This pronounced salinity makes the wines ideal for serving alongside a variety of tapas, especially seafood.
Outside of Spain and Portugal, Albariño is gaining traction in other maritime-influenced regions, including coastal California (San Luis Obispo, Napa, and Santa Ynez Valley), Oregon, and New Zealand (Marlborough, Nelson, and Gisborne). Although thought to have been a key player in Australia’s viticultural scene, recent DNA testing has confirmed that almost all of the “Albariño” planted on the continent is actually the French variety Savagnin.
In the vineyard, Albariño is cultivated in a variety of ways. In Portugal’s Minho region (home of Vinho Verde), the vines are often trained on pergolas, whereas in Spain, these plants are often wire trained. Canopies are generally kept large so as to house the generous amount of buds that an average Albariño vine produces (around 30-40). These hardy vines are able to withstand excessive heat and humidity, rendering them perfect matches for the damp, salty conditions of western Iberia.