December 4, 2023

Albarino! Alvarinho! Why we love it!

Albarino or Alvarinho? Well, it depends on where you come from really it does. Same grape, different accent!

Albarino in Spain and when it crosses the border into neighbouring Portugal, it likes to be called Alvarinho. 

It is the star white wine grape of Rais Baixas in Spain’s Northwestern region of Galicia. Here especially, it takes on many expressions. From expressive fruity whites to oaked versions with plenty of fleshy savouriness. In fact, you can even find some distilled versions if you know where to look. Pazo Senorans does a couple of those which I am keen to try one day.

In the far northern reaches of Portugal, it can be made into Vinho Alvarinho as a slightly riper and slightly bigger version in Vinho Verde. Although it is not unusual in Galician vineyards as well, in the Vinho Verde region they make use of pergolas to grow their vines. This tends to allow high yields, and slightly lower potential alcohol levels. One of these Vinho Verde wines is the Azevedo Alvarinho Vinho Verde Reserva.

These grapes do well on poor soils such as throughout Galicia, and particularly Rais Baixas. Sandy soils, or those of decomposing granite which you may find referred to as Xabre.

However, it is not all about Spain and Portugal!

It was also the star in a scandal not of its making in Australia. I remember in 2008 tasting these wines that winemakers had planted as Albarino. It was that year that these winemakers discovered that what they actually had planted was Savagnin. A French grape from the alpine regions, notably Jura. You can find Australian Albarino though, and it is well worth exploring (as is some of the Savagnin offerings).

Albarino is also grown in New Zealand, France, USA & Uruguay.

What does it taste like?

Albarino can be dry (around 1 g/l residual sugar) through to off dry. It is very often intensely fruity, showing fragrant aromas and flavours of lemon, grapefruit, apricot, pear and peach. Maybe even jasmine. Sometimes it will take on a mineral savouriness. Generally, it is medium to fuller body, with fuller bodied styles often being matured in oak. 

What do you match this wine with?

The grape does tend to be grown on the coastal area of Spain. So, it undoubtedly makes sense that this grape will be a natural match for seafood. White fish, lobster, scallops, octopus is just the start. 

Even so, don’t restrict your imagination!

A quiche, frittata or tortilla works just as well. Salty haloumi served up as tapas or on a salad is a delicious foil for that intense fruitiness. Equally if you love any type of green leaf salad, this grape is a great choice, particularly if you spruce it up with some pear, or apple slices and nuts.

Of course, chicken will be also a very good match.

A couple of recommendations

Fresh & fruity

A classic Albarino d’Efinane  – a wine with a long history that reflects more of the pure fruited style. Fresh, fruity with a good balance and suppleness. (click here for the review)

Albarino de fefinane

Savoury yet floral

A fleshy version from Pazo Senoras that has more noticeable creamy flavours and texture thanks to some careful lees work. Complex yet delightfully perfumed still. (click here for the review)

The creamy one

Chan de Rosas Cuvee Especial is a lightly rounded, floral yet spicy version of Albarino. This one has freshness at its core though making it a versatile white. Click here to read the full review.

The Vinho Verde

Azevedo Alvarinho Vinho Verde is fresh, elegant yet creamy and spicy. A great introduction, or reintroduction, to the wines of Northern Portugal. Click here to read the full review.

To find out more, please visit riasbaixaswines.com.

This article was first published on 4th April, 2023 & updated 4th December, 2023 .

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