Albariño is a white wine grape grown primarily in Galicia, Spain that is used to make a white wine by the same name. Though the grape is ubiquitous in northwestern Spain, it is thought to have been transported there in the twelfth century by Cluny monks from Alsace or Germany. In fact, the name “Alba-Riño,” means “the white wine from the Rhine,” hinting at the grape’s Gallic origins.
The grape itself is thick-skinned, which is why it can thrive in the cool climates of northwestern Spain and Portugal (where it is called Alvarinho). The fruit is small, and high in glycerol (much like Riesling, rumored to be a close cousin of Albariño) lending the resulting wine a bright acidity and floral aromas.
In Galicia, Albariño represents 90% of all plantings. Traditionally, the grape played second fiddle to others in blends. It was an every man’s grape, which is why Albariño vines were historically trained high so that farmers could grow vegetables and raise chickens below the canopy. But in the mid-1980s, winemakers in the denomination of origin (DO) turned the tables by vinifying Albariño as a stand-alone varietal, propelling the wine to international renown. Today, the resounding demand for this young, pleasant wine has transformed the previously poor region of Galicia into a gastronomic destination.
But for those who can’t make the trans-Atlantic voyage, one need look no further than our West Coast. In recent years, Albariño production has exploded in the United States, but especially in California where 278 acres have been planted since 2000. Ever since Albariño vine cuttings were transplanted to the Golden State in 1992, California winemakers and growers have gone mad for the grape. At a time when the country realized that the extravagance of Chardonnay had gone too far, Albariño offered a fresh alternative. Since, winemakers from Bob and Louisa Lindquist in Santa Ynez Valley to Markus Bokisch in Lodi to Christian Roguenant in San Luis Obispo have embraced the grape and made a name for Californian Albariño.
The international success of this Gallician grape caught the eye of TAPAS, the Tempranillo Advocates Producers and Amigos Society based in the United States. Though the organization was founded upon a devotion to promoting Tempranillo, it could not ignore this rising star in the world of Spanish wine. As such, TAPAS has organized an international celebration of the grape called Albariño Days; a week long celebration to coincide with the Fiesta del Albariño 2016 in the small coastal town of Cambados, Spain. Events include special vineyard tours, tastings, pairing dinners, and more throughout California, Oregon, and Texas.
If you can’t make it to the festivities, we recommend stopping by a wine shop and poking around for one of the many unique Albariños California or Spain has to offer. A fresh young, wine with delicate aromas and high acidity Albariño is best enjoyed on hot summer days, perhaps with oysters and a dash of Hog Island’s famed chimichurri mignonette.
Some of our favorite Californian bottles are:
· 2015 Gallica Albariño, (coming soon 1st release from Matthew Rorick's vineyard in Murphys)
· 2014 Bokisch Albariño, Lodi, CA
· 2014 Hendry Vineyard Albariño, Napa Valley, CA
· 2013 Harney Lane Albariño, Lodi, CA
All the Swirl is a collections of thoughts and opinions assembled by the staff and industry friends of Charles Communications Associates, a marketing communications firm with its headquarters in San Francisco, California. We invite you to explore more about our company and clients by visiting www.charlescomm.com.