If high-acid, fruit-driven white wines are what you generally reach for, then albariño is the grape for you. These thirst-quenching wines are known for their refreshing, fruit-forward flavor profiles and lip-puckering acidity, rendering them perfect for pairing with a variety of equally fresh and salty foods.
This is what you need to know about this indigenous Spanish grape variety, plus six saline-tinged bottles to get your albariño explorations started.
What Is Albariño?
Albariño is a green-skinned grape variety used to make white wines, most notably on the Iberian Peninsula. The grape is characterized by thick skins, which allow it to fare well in humid, Atlantic-influenced climates.
Where Is Albariño From?
Albariño is native to Galicia, a coastal Atlantic region in northwestern Spain.
How Is Albariño Made?
Albariño is generally vinified varietally, meaning that it is rarely used in blends. In order to maintain and showcase the grape’s naturally high acidity, most winemakers choose to vinify and age albariño exclusively in steel, though oak-vinified expressions do exist.
What Does Albariño Taste Like?
Albariño is known for producing bright and zesty wines characterized by high acidity and relatively low levels of alcohol (between 11.5% and 12.5%). Tropical fruit, citrus including lime and lemon, underripe pear, stone fruit, coarse sea salt, and crushed stones are common flavors found in these wines.
What Are Other Names for Albariño?
In Portugal, albariño goes by the name alvarinho. It is also referred to as alvarin blanco, azal blanco, and galego throughout the Iberian Peninsula.
Are Albariño and Vinho Verde the Same Thing?
No, although there is a bit of overlap. While albariño is cultivated within the Vinho Verde region of northern Portugal, the grape is only permitted to be planted in the Monção and Melgaço areas. The main grape used in Vinho Verde production is loureiro, and the wines are generally blends, whereas most albariños are single-varietal wines.
What Are Good Food Pairings with Albariño?
The bright, fruit-forward flavor profiles and naturally high acidity found in albariño wines mean they’re perfect for pairing with seafood, shellfish, and a variety of salads, as well as raw-bar favorites, cheese boards, ceviche, fish tacos, and more.
These are six bottles to try.
Now spearheaded by Gerardo Méndez, Do Ferreiro is a small family estate based in Rias Baixas, Spain. Méndez and his father, Francisco, were key leaders in helping the appellation gain its official DO status back in 1988. Today, Méndez farms 175 small plots of albariño across the region. All vineyard work is done by hand so as to ensure the highest quality. The winery’s entry-level albariño comes from 20-to-120-year-old vines, ferments with native yeasts, and ages sur-lie in steel for six to nine months prior to bottling. Saline-tinged flavors of yellow stone fruit, dried herbs, and crushed rocks dominate the wine’s zippy palate.
This is one of the industry’s most beloved bottlings, and it’s no surprise why. This small family winery is based in the heart of Rias Baixas, and all oenology is overseen by one of the region’s most famous winemakers, Raul Perez. Fruit for this wine comes from a four-hectare vineyard made up of 40-to-70-year-old vines rooted in sandy, granite soils. On the palate, flavors of citrus rind, honeysuckle, lime, and fresh sea breeze lead to a sharp, palate-cleansing finish.
For a delicious, budget-friendly bottle of albariño to kick off your exploration of the grape, look no further than this “green label” bottling. Fruit for this wine is hand-harvested, destemmed, and macerated for eight hours prior to fermenting with native yeasts and aging for a minimum of four months on the lees prior to bottling. The wine is entirely typical for the Salnés Valley region of Rias Baixas: zesty, floral, and bone-dry.
If there’s one winemaker to know in Portugal, it’s Luis Seabra. Since founding his eponymous project in 2013, Seabra’s wines regularly appear on top wine lists and shop shelves around the world thanks to their elegant flavor profiles and terroir-focused structures. Unlike the other wines on this list, Seabra’s varietal alvarinho undergoes full malolactic fermentation and ages in neutral oak prior to bottling. On the palate, textured and savory flavors of Meyer lemon, green apple skin, crushed seashells, and hints of honey lead to a bright, palate-coating finish. The word “Cru” in the wine’s name, not a designation, instead refers to the Portuguese word for raw, paying homage to the land-reflective nature of Seabra’s wines.Continue to 5 of 6 below.
Founded by Alberto Nanclares and Silvia Prieto in 1997, this Rias Baixas project focuses on old-vine albariño sourced from organically farmed plots around the village of Cambados. The couple farms five hectares of vines without chemicals and vinifies their wines with a low-intervention mentality. Dandelion is the team’s entry-level albariño and is an unmissable bottle for fans of refreshing white wines. Fruit comes from 25-to-45-year-old vines rooted in sandy granitic soils. The wine ferments with indigenous yeasts in stainless steel prior to aging sur-lie in a variety of vessels for seven months prior to bottling. The wine is round, precise, and saline-driven, marked by flavors of green apple, peach skin, lemon-lime, and sea salt.
As with Granbazán, Zarate is based in the Salnés Valley region of Rias Baixas. This historic estate was founded in 1707 and produces some of the area’s most classically styled, long-lived wines that are perfect for drinking now or later. This, Zarate’s entry-level bottling, is produced from organic and biodynamically farmed fruit and is vinified entirely in steel so as to preserve the wine’s natural acidity. Expect flavors of citrus, white flowers, and crushed stones to lead to a refreshing, lip-puckering finish.