Virgin Wines: Albarino
Albarino is the coolest grape in Spain. At least, it grows in the coolest area. This fresh aromatic white wine is prized by the locals and is becoming more popular outside it's native home.
A Cool Customer
Albarino comes from a remote corner of Galicia in North West Spain in Rias Baixas. This area of Spain is cool, wet and windy, and Albarino grapes have thick skins to cope with the elements. This contributes to the concentrated aromas Albarino wines have.
Albarino is an intense creature. It's aromatic, smelling of almonds, apples, peach, citrus and flowers. It's also highly acidic and ultra-fresh with enough flavour and fruit to give it good balance, it's also relatively low in alcohol, making it a perfect aperitif.
Galicia is also known as "A Costa do Marisco" or seafood coast. The main industry is fish based, as is the local diet. It's no surprise then that the local grape type, Albarino, matches well with fish and seafood of all types. If in doubt for food matches for any wine, look at where it comes from and what is eaten there, and you're sure to be onto a winner.
Youth on its Side
Albarino is best drunk young. It's not a big hearty powerful wine, nor has it been oak aged. The bracing acidity and fresh fruit flavours fade with age, so if you've a bottle of Albarino hanging about, don't save it, make up an occasion to drink it.
Tingle on your Tongue
Sometimes Albarino has a slight tingle, or to use the technical term, prickle, on the tongue. It's to do with the high acidity, or because the maker has enlivened it a little with CO2 to give it an extra spritz. So if your Albarino has a little extra fizz, don't worry, this is completely normal.
A Portuguese Twist
Albarino is also grown just across the border from Galicia in Northern Portugal, although here it is known as Alvarinho. Here it is used in the slightly sparkling young fresh wines of the region called Vinho Verde.
Makers in the USA and Australia are experimenting with Albarino. It's a tricky one to grow, as it detests too much heat, and needs cool fresh climates to make the best of its flavours. Some Californian makers haven't been able to resist the lure of the oak barrel and oaked Albarino is becoming more readily available.