Albariño, the most international Galician grape

What comes to mind when you hear the word Albariño? Some believe that Albariño is a geographical area; others imagine the sea and the seafood accompanied by a glass of white wine. There will perhaps be someone who would have you travel to Portugal or, who knows, to the vineyards of California. For many others it’s simply an expression that makes them think of a Spanish white wine.
The word in question no doubt forms a part of each of these concepts, but perhaps we should start at the beginning.

albariño

Albariño is a white grape variety, straw yellow in colour with golden-green reflections, which is also known as Abelleiro in Galicia and Alvarinho in Portugal.

This vine likes fresh climates, and can be found in areas that are humid and not very hot. The strain produces small bunches with medium size grapes that are slightly elliptical in shape. They are sweet and remind us of the aroma of apricots.

So what is it about it that makes it so special? This grape gives rise to very versatile and high quality, fresh and elegant white wines that are loved for their balanced acidity, their refreshing and dry citrus flavours, and those wonderful aromas that remind us of lemons and grapefruit, pears and apricots; we can even find floral notes, a certain mineral memory and a little touch of saltiness, which is why they go so well with fish and seafood. They are the ideal wines for sea food lovers!

In technical terms all this means that the amount of aromatic concentration that this grape has is due to the fact that it has very high levels of two aromatic compounds present in some varieties, called terpenes and thiols. With us so far?

But let’s get back to more everyday matters.
Now we know a little more about the DNA of this grape and how the wines it produces are so popular, maybe that’s why many people think that Albariño is the geographical area from which they come and not the grapes with which they are made, because “Albariños”, as we will see later, may come from different geographical latitudes.

It’s worth mentioning that although this description corresponds to monovarietal Albariño wines, i.e. those which are produced solely from this grape, it can also be found in coupages well-combined with other white grapes.

But what if we take a look at some of the legends that surround its origins?
The most romantic version situates it on the Moselle River, which runs through Luxembourg, Germany and France, passes through the renowned wine region of Alsace and flows into the famous Rhine River. And which grape is the queen of the Rhine? The Riesling variety.

The Albariño vines are often compared with this German grape that gives rise to refined and long-lived white wines because they share certain qualities. There are those who venture to say that Albariño wines are “the Rieslings of Spain”.

The legend goes on to explain that the monks of the Cistercian order, on their way to Galicia, brought it with them in the 12th century. This religious order had its origins in the Abbey of Citeux, in La Côte d’Or, in Burgundy, another large and world-renowned wine area. It was the monks whose daily tasks then included taking care of the Camino de Santiago, and one of these tasks was precisely that of replanting the vineyards.

But science tells us that reality is quite another story. According to research, there is stronger evidence that our ‘alba’ grape is an indigenous strain of Galicia, specifically, that it originates from the banks of the Umia River, in Pontevedra, an area where wine has been produced since the Middle Ages.

Right, now we know where we are.
The Albariño grape is the main variety in Rías Baixas, which belongs to the province of Pontevedra, but is also grown in the north of Portugal, especially in the Vinho Verde Denomination of Origin, which produces wines of the same name made mainly with Alvarinho.

We can also find Albariño vineyards in other regions of Spain such as Cantabria, Castilla y León, and in Catalonia.

Now we’ll travel from Monterrei (Galicia) to Monterey (California), because our white grape has made the leap across the Atlantic to “colonise the Americas”.

Marimar Torres, fourth generation of the Torres Family, owns the Marimar Estate winery in California, where she has been making wines for over 30 years. Marimar realised that California is a privileged land for the Albariño, since it likes the cold and the proximity to the sea, and she began to cultivate it in the late nineteen nineties in Green Valley, a location that meets these climatic requirements.

Did you know that wines made with Albariño have become fashionable in the United States? They have become an alternative to those made with Chardonnay, and as we’ve explained, the climatic adaptability of the grape has allowed wineries in Monterey, California to join in cultivating Albariño as well.

Yet the strain’s journey doesn’t end here. Its fame has begun to spread worldwide, and today you can find Albariño vineyards in Argentina, New Zealand, Brazil and even in Uruguay, making it, without a doubt, the most international Galician grape.

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