Why we love Albarino
One of the key wine trends in our last Market Report was the huge growth in consumer spending on more unusual grape varieties.
While wine list favourites Merlot and Pinot Grigio still come out on top in terms of volume, when it comes to sales growth they are losing out to less tried and tested varieties.
One of Spain’s most famous white varieties, Albarino’s heartland is Galicia’s Rias Baixas DO in the northwest. It is also widely planted in Portugal’s Vinho Verde region where it is known as Alvarinho. What both of these regions share is their proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, high annual rainfall and extreme humidity. And this is where the Albarino grape comes into its own. With its thick skin and small berries, it is tough enough to survive the damp conditions of the rain-lashed coast without the threat of fungal disease.
But Albarino isn’t just restricted to this corner of Europe. There are some great Albarino wines being made all over the world, with notable quality in New Zealand, Uruguay, and the American states of Oregon, Washington and California.
So what’s it like?
If you like the citrus punch of a Sauvignon Blanc and the aromatic beauty of a Viognier, Albarino is a good choice. Known for its aromas of peach, apricot and almonds, the wine is balanced by a high, citrusy acidity and has a rich texture. The grape’s thick skin and large number of pips lead to a pleasant hint of bitterness.
What we eat it with?
While we definitely enjoy this one on its own, the classic match for Albarino is seafood – which makes sense given where it comes from! It’s great with raw or lightly-cured seafood like oysters, sushi and ceviche, or an enormous bowl of steamed mussels, grilled prawns or fresh crab cakes. Delicious!
Three Albarinos to try:
Rias Baixas, Spain
This classic Galician Albarino is made by husband and wife team Andrew McCarthy and Angela Martin at the Castro Martin estate in Rias Baixas. It has a distinct salty minerality accompanied by pure, clean, white fruit aromas. A vibrant acidity on the palate is balanced by flavours of white peach.
Vinho Verde, Portugal
This Alvarinho comes from the Vinho Verde region of north-west Portugal, right on the Atlantic coast. It’s a modern style, in a very stylish bottle, that has won several awards including Decanter and IWC. It has generous aromas and flavours of peaches, lemons and orange blossom, with a full-bodied texture, soft mouthfeel and enjoyable finish.
On the other side of the Atlantic Ocean (and quite a bit further down!) is Bodega Garzon. Their delicious Albarino has ripe aromas of white peaches, citrus fruits and beautiful floral notes of jasmine. It has a crisp yet fruity mouthfeel, which is rounded off with a fresh, balanced acidity and mouth-watering length.