The Albariño ( the Galician name for the grape, northeastern Spain), Alvarinho (Portuguese name) grape , from which the vinho verde is created, is a variety of white wine grape grown in Galicia (northwest Spain) andM onção (northwest Portugal), where it is used to make varietalwhite wines which shows many characteristics of the riesling, but with a bit of honeysuckle in the nose that’s more reminiscent of viognier.
It was presumably brought to Iberia by Cluny monks in the twelfth century. Its name “Alba-Riño” means “the white [wine] from the Rhine” and it has locally been thought to be a Riesling clone originating from the Alsace region of France, although earliest known records of Riesling as a grape variety date from the 15th, rather than the 12th, century. It is also theorized that the grape is a close relative of the French grape Petit Manseng.
It is common in the Vinho Verde region of Portugal, but it is only authorized to be grown in Monção. When the Rías Baixas DO was established on an experimental basis in 1986, Albariño began to emerge as a varietal, both locally and internationally. Its recent emergence as a varietal led the wines to be “crafted for the palates of Europe, America and beyond and for wine drinkers who wanted clean flavors and rich,ripe fruit” and led to wines completely different from those produced across the river in Portugal.
Albariño is now produced in several California regions including Santa Ynez Valley and Clarksburg, AVA’s.
In recent years Albariño has attracted the attention of Australian winemakers, several of whom are now producing varietal wines. However, it has recently been discovered that grape growers and wine makers in Australia have been supplying and selling wrongly labelled Albarino for over a decade. They thought they were pouring money into the market for the Spanish grape, only to discover they were incorrectly sold cuttings of the French Savagnin grape instead.
A French expert visiting Australia raised questions in 2008 and DNA testing has confirmed that the grapes are in fact French Savagnin. Almost all wine in Australia labelled as Albarino will be Savagnin.
The grape is noted for its distinctive aroma, very similar to that of Viognier, Gewurztraminer, and Petit Manseng, suggesting apricot and peach. The wine produced is unusually light, and generally high in acidity with alcohol levels of 11.5–12.5%. Its thick skins and large number of pips can cause residual bitterness.
In the beginning of the 20th century, Albariño vines could be found growing around the trunks of poplar trees and in bushes along the outside margins of a field. However, in the middle of the century, the growers made big investments and became professional grape growers. When grown in a vineyard, the vines need to be wire trained with large canopies to accommodate the 30 to 40 buds per vine that is typical. The grape responds well to the heat and humidity though the high yields and bunching of clusters usually keeps the grapes within the margins of ripeness.