This aromatic white grape is the star of Spain’s Iberian peninsula, growing typically and abundantly in Galicia, an area hugged closely by the Atlantic Ocean and the Cantabrian Sea. Galicia is known for its lush and verdant forests, valleys and wild beaches and for its fashionable and moreish wine which is fast becoming one of Spain’s most popular prestige exports.
90% of Albariño production is in Rías Baixas which has five subzones, O Rosal, Condado do Tea, Soutomaior, Ribeira do Ulla and Val do Salnés. The damp maritime climate and Atlantic influence of Galicia suits the grape which is low yielding, refreshingly saline and typically expresses a ripe and peachy, apricot character which can move towards more a more citrussy profile in cooler regions, with higher resulting acidity. Albariño is also a hugely popular grape in Northern Portugal where it is commonly known as Alvarinho and is blended into young, green, sometimes slightly effervescent Vinho Verde wines with other native varieties such as Loureiro and Trajadura.
A moderately light-bodied wine, it is typically vinified in stainless steel to preserve the vitality and freshness but there are some vineyards that are starting to experiment with oak ageing to produce more honeyed versions. Albariño is an excellent and very versatile wine for pairing due to its high acidity and freshness and is great with dishes from shrimp to sea bass, sushi and spicy Thai and Vietnamese food to creamy chicken pasta dishes.
Image: © Bodegas Pazo de Villarei.