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Albariño

Albariņo cluster.Albariño is the primary grape used to make dry white wine in the Rias Baixes (Lower Inlets) section of the Galicia region of Northwestern Spain. Considered by many to be Spain's premier quality white wine, Albariño is also known in Portugal as Alvarinho and often used as a component of Vinho Verde.

Weather conditions in the Rias Baixes are generally cool, windy and rainy. Vines must be trained high and open to allow winds to dry them out and avoid the ongoing threat of rot, mildew and other fungal diseases. Albariño vines have developed a high tolerance to the blustery, cold, damp conditions of maritime climates.

Albariño grapes' thick skins contribute to their intense aromas. Typically, its wines are very sweet-smelling, often described as having scents of almonds or almond paste, apples, citrus, lime, peaches, and flowers or grass. Albariño shares many of the same terpenes also found in the other aromatic varieties: Gewürztraminer, Muscat, and Riesling.

Albariño wines are particularly suited to seafood due to their bracing acidity (Jancis Robinson calls it "razor-sharp."). This grape's inherent tartness should be embraced in youth, for wines made from albariño do not age well, and the vibrant aromas begin to noticeably fade within months of bottling.

Although very few acres are planted in California, nascent interest in growing and producing Albariño began in the mid-1990s. Bob Lindquist, of Qupé, had about 150 acres planted in the Ibarra-Young Vineyard in Los Olivos and has released some under the "Verdad" label. Bryan Babcock has also experimented with making Albariño from the Santa Ynez area. Michael Havens planted three acres in Carneros in 1996. He felt there was some ecological parallel in the region's cool and windy conditions that also exist in Galicia, Spain. Under the Havens label, he produced about 400 cases from the 2001 vintage.

In March 2002, the TTB approved using Albariño as a varietal designation on domestic labels. Roland Wenzel planted an acre in Anderson Valley in 2003, and an acre of Valenti vineyard zinfandel on Mendocino Ridge was grafted over to albariño in 2006; Drew Winery produced separate bottlings of 2010 Albariño from each of these sources. Bokisch Vineyards has substantial plantings in Lodi. Abacela Vineyards in Oregon's Umpqua Valley is notable for their successes with Albariño.

*Typical Albariño Smell and/or Flavor Descriptors
*Typicity depends upon individual tasting ability and experience and is also affected by terroir and seasonal conditions, as well as viticultural and enological techniques. This list therefore is merely suggestive and neither comprehensive nor exclusive.

Varietal Aromas/Flavors:

Processing Bouquets/Flavors:

Fruity: lime, apple, grapefruit

Bottle Age: (not recommended)

Floral: hyacinth, linden

 

Spicy: almond, almond paste

 

Herbal: grass

 

Mouth feel / Texture: light, crisp, bracing, mouth-watering, tangy, zippy

Jim LaMar


RESOURCES
1. Jancis Robinson (ed), Oxford Companion to Wine, 3rd Edition, (Oxford University Press: London) 2006

2. Benjamin Lewin, Wine Myths and Reality, (Vendage Press: Dover, DE) 2010

3. Jancis Robinson (ed), Jancis Robinson's Guide to Wine Grapes, (Oxford University Press: New York) 1996


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Created June 17, 2002 | last updated September 7, 2012
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