The Albariño is a wine that is most well known coming from the northern Spanish region of Rias Baixas, but the grape and of course the wine does really well in a variety of places. In its most closely associated homelands of Spain and Portugal it’s usually called Alvarinho, and it can be made in a wide variety of styles, from the slightly spritzy Vinho Verde blend to more full bodied and opulent white wines.
Albariño is nearly synonymous with Northwestern Spain and Portugal, and so an examination of the etymology of the grape is a bit of a head scratcher. The name literally means grape from the Rhine, which of course is in Germany, and so it has led many to believe that it is a cousin of the Riesling grape. Albariño though has a very distinctive style, particularly with the notes of salinity owing to its growing regions proximity to the Atlantic Coast. In New World iterations the salinity and lean flavor profile is often replaced with an opulent fruit character. The white wine has shown to do really well in the Pacific Northwest in particular.
2015 Bodega Don Olegario, Albariño, Rias Baixas, Spain $17
The Don Olegario bottling shows a serious Albariño from one of the region’s top producers. Sustainable and organic farming practices, and fairly old vines, at thirty years show a commitment to the region and the variety that results in a world class bottle of wine. The partial malolactic fermentation has added a richness to this wine. Aromas of green apple and wet stone, notes of wild herbs. The palate offers a great balance between the salinity and lean citrus notes with hints of chamomile and pollen.
In Portugal’s Vinho Verde region (you don’t say the last e, you swallow it) pure Alvarinho, as opposed to a blend of a few white grapes is typically made in the sub appellations of Monção and Melgaço far to the north and right against the borders with Spain’s Albariño growing region. This is a steely lean and bright wine, with aromas of lime and crushed stone, and an acidity that even impacts its aromas. The palate is angular, bright and zesty, with hints of saline, citrus fruits and zippy acid.
2016 Maryhill Proprietor’s Reserve Albariño, Columbia Valley, Washington $20
A phenomenal bottle of New World Albariño from the estate Otis Vineyard in the Columbia River Gorge. Opulent tropical fruit aromas, mark quite a departure from some of the more traditional Albariño character and the New World fruit forward character. Notes of pineapple, guava and mango are on offer in the aromatics and the palate continues with rich ripe fruit. The steel character comes across in a brightness and lift that adds zip to some of the sweeter fruit notes.