Albariño is a small, thick-skinned grape considered to be Spain and Portugal’s premier white wine varietal. It’s grown primarily in northwest Spain’s Galicia (gah-LEE-thee-yah) region but is also prevalent in the Minho (MEE-nyoh) region in northwest Portugal where the grape goes by the alternative name—Alvarino (ahl-vah-REE-nyoh). Albariño has flourished around this part of the world for quite possibly 900 years— but has only in the more recent era, been introduced to the American wine-drinking public.
Albariño is often described as being fairly to highly aromatic in floral, citrus fruit (lemon), tree fruits (apricot, peach, and apple), and bakeshop (almond).
This grape is vinified dry with medium to high acidity and quite possibly a slight spritz of bubbles in some Portuguese versions. Albariño is typically light plus to medium-bodied. This grape’s inherent tartness is typically intended to be embraced in its youth, anywhere from one to three years from harvest. Some producers have begun to experiment—applying subtle use of malolactic fermentation, neutral oak aging, and/or aging the wine on the lees. The use of these techniques attempt to add a touch of additional complexity and rounding out a touch of its tartness.
Albariño is Spain and Portugal’s most prolific white wine grape. In the northwest Galicia region of Spain, the cool and damp area of Rías Baixas (REE-ahs by-SHAHS) produces roughly 90 percent of their plantings as the varietally labeled wine—Albariño. While in the Portugal’s Minho region, Alvarino may be a stand-alone varietal but is more often blended with other indigenous white-wine varietals to produce the white version (as opposed to the alternative red wine version) of Vinho Verde wines (literally “Green Wine” referring to its youthfulness). These wines offer a more affordable and lighter version of the typical Albariño found in Spain.