As a handy tool for sorting out wine-grape varieties, I often categorize wine grapes by their aromatic level. While just about every grape has its characteristic aromas, the Spanish Albariño is one of the varieties that rank as highly aromatic. With Viognier, Gewurztraminer, Muscat and others, these are grapes that yield wines with aromas that seem to leap out of the glass and shout their name.
Albariño, and its Portuguese cousin Alvarinho, are our featured varieties in this month's Wine Focus on our WineLovers Discussion Groups. We hope you'll grab a glass and join us!
Albariño is pronounced "Ahl-bah-reen-yo" and spelled with a wiggly "tilde" over the "n" that some E-mail software may mangle. Albariño is grown primarily in the section of Galicia in northwestern Spain called Rias Baixas, meaning "Lower Rivers" in the local Gallego dialect.
This damp and rainy region produces grapes with thick skins, and this climate effect is said to foster Albariño's naturally aromatic flavors. It's no surprise that the acidic white wines from this coastal area make natural companions with seafood and fish.
Directly across the border from Galicia into Portugal, the same grape is called Alvarinho, pronounced almost the same, where it's sometimes used in Vinho Verde, a Portuguese white that may be still or slightly fizzy. Much Vinho Verde is light and intended for immediate consumption, so much so that it suffers from trans-Atlantic shipment and is best avoided until you can enjoy it during a trip to Portugal, an expedition that I highly recommend.
Vinho Verde or otherwise, though, Portuguese wines that explicitly name Alvarinho on the label are often more serious stuff, well worth the toll even after export.
Still, whether you're enjoying Albariño from Spain or Alvarinho from Portugal, drinking the youngest vintage available is a good idea; this is a wine that shows best when it's young and fresh, and there's little benefit in cellaring.
Origin: Wine Lovers Page