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Albariño Continues to Make Waves

Albariño Continues to Make Waves

The jewel of north-west Spain and one of the country’s oldest grape varieties, Albariño continues to garner interest from consumers both home and away. Its staunch association with the cool coastal climate from where it’s raised makes it a popular choice with fish and seafood restaurants all around the world.

As the 1st August marked ‘World Albariño Day’, it feels like the perfect opportunity to uncover more info about this rising star.


Where exactly is Albariño produced?

Its spiritual home is in Galicia, which sits on top of Portugal’s northern border. The DO of Rías Baixas was created in 1988 and only covers a little over 4000 hectares in its entirety with producers ranging from modern-equipped co-operatives to tiny artisan growers.

The region centres around the provincial city of Pontevedra with four sub-regions lying in Pontevedra province and one further sub-region in the south of A Coruña province. From north to south, these sub-regions are Ribeiro do Ulla (A Coruña), Val do Salnés, Soutomaior, Condado do Tea and O Rosal.

From a geographical perspective, what characterises all of these zones are their proximity to rivers or the sea, the rocky or alluvial soils and the maritime climate which sees high rainfall, warm rather than hot summers, cool rather than cold winters and frequent exposure to prevailing winds.

Outside of Rías Baixas, Albariño can also be found in the nearby DO of Ribeira Sacra (also in Galicia), across the border in Portugal’s Vinho Verde and a little is produced in South America, California and Oregon too.

 

What does Albariño taste like?

The first thing you’ll notice when you sniff Albariño is its vibrant floral, citrus profile. In the more concentrated, premium examples you might also detect nectarine and honeysuckle too. When you first taste the wine, the acidity will be quite pronounced giving it a really mouth-watering feel. This can be accentuated by a mineral-like salinity, especially if the vines are rooted in granitic soils.

Here’s a couple of brilliant examples that make a great introduction to this unique variety.

For a super fresh, almost spritzy style try the Lembranzas Albariño. A little CO2 is used during the winemaking process which gives the wine the slightest hint of a prickle and there’s plenty of zing that’s translated from the mineral-rich soils. Lots of citrus fruits are present along with hints of pear and candied apple too making this excellent value for money. For the ultimate match, pair off with a classic seafood paella.

For a small step up in price, how about the intensely fruity Coral do Mar Albariño from Pazo do Mar. Their modest 18 hectare estate, in the Condado do Tea sub-region, is largely worked organically although they’re not certified. Condado do Tea has a more dramatic terrain but can hit higher temperatures in the summer than neighbouring zones. This producer’s Albariño has a textural feel punctuated by fine acidity and a faint piquancy from the granite soils. With ripe nectarine overlaying citrus, there’s also a distinctive, floral quality. This is both modern and expressive and makes a fantastic accompaniment to grilled fish like sardines or white bait.

 

3 little known facts about Albariño

  • Most people will tell you that Albariño is best drunk within the first 2-3 years of vintage. Whilst that’s true for many of the more commercial examples, thanks to Albariño’s naturally high acidity and thick skins containing complex phenolic compounds, the very best Albariño wines, like Riesling and Gewürztraminer, can actually evolve gracefully for well over 10 years.
  • Albariño represents around 90% of all commercial vine plantings in Rías Baixas but the vineyards are extremely fragmented and are made up of many thousands of tiny micro-parcels. To put it into numbers, out of some 3,600 hectares of Albariño vineyards, around 6,500 individual growers own and control over 21,000 micro-parcels.
  • Because of the high prevalence of rainfall and humidity within the Rías Baixas region, Albariño vines are traditionally trained on a modified pergola system called parra where the grapes hang from above head height. This encourages good air circulation amongst the grape bunches in order to prevent fungal disease.

Next time you think of picking up a bottle of Albariño, why not go the whole hog and pair it with a delicious authentic seafood paella. It doesn’t get any better than Spanish Sabores’ recipe!

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