This week’s grape of the week, Albariño, is Spain’s most famous white wine variety, and one that is becoming increasingly fashionable, featuring on the wine lists of cool bars and restaurants round the country.
It’s the main grape variety grown in Rias Biaxis DO in Galicia in the rain-lashed north west of the country, especially in the towns of Cambados, Condado do Tea and in Barbanza e Iria.
Know as Alvarinho in Portugal, (where it is the main grape used in making that country’s famous green wine or Vinho Verde), the grape is thought to have been brought to Spain by monks in the 12th century, as its name Alba –Rino means the white wine from the Rhine. It is considered by some to be a Riesling clone originating from the Alsace region of France.
Whatever its provenance, Albariño makes for some deliciously gluggable, highly fragrant white wine, with fruity undertones of peach and apricot.
In the past the grape was most often blended with other local varietals such as Godello or Treixadura, but since the mid-1980’s the grape’s full potential has been realised and appreciated for single varietal (ie unblended) bottles.
Its thick skin allows it to endure the damp climate in Galicia, and the subsequent fruit is small, sweet and high in glycerol, which produces wines which are high in both acidity and alcohol.
High quality Albariño wines are intensely aromatic, almost botanical, and can be aged well.
The grape is also increasingly grown in California wine regions including the santa Ynez Valley and Los Carneros.
Recently Albariño has been attracting the attention of Aussie winemakers, several of whom are now producing varietal wines.