Spanish white wine albarino

Learn About Albariño Wine and How to Find Quality

Deep Dive August 1, 2017 – Updated on September 10th, 2019

Albariño wine (“alba-reen-yo”) is a high-quality, light-bodied white that grows mostly in Spain and Portugal. It’s loved for its high acidity, refreshing citrus flavors, dry taste, and subtle saltiness. For seafood lovers, Albariño is a fantastic choice for pairing with exquisite dishes like ceviche, fish tacos, seafood pasta, and shrimp.

Albariño: The Seafood Lovers’ Wine

Find out more about Albariño wine, including how to serve it, what foods pair best with it, and its geographical origin.

Albariño Tasting Notes

Albariño is a wine that deserves extended sniffing in your glass. It has a dramatic aromatic intensity as a result of the higher levels of two aromatic compound groups called terpenes and thiols. Expect aromas of lemons, limes, pear, grapefruit, honeysuckle, nectarine, and occasionally orange zest and beeswax, supported by subtle smells of freshly wetted granite and Thai basil when sniffing your glass. When you taste Albariño, you’ll instantly delight in its mouth-watering acidity, somewhat weighty mid-palate, saltiness, and long tingly finish that often has a subtle bitter note (almost like grapefruit pith).

The Science Behind Flavors

Explore flavors in wine, and their origins, on this handy aroma wheel.

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How to Serve Albariño Wines

Albariño is an excellent cocktail/aperitif and also works marvelously well alongside light intensity foods. Serve Albariño cold, in a white wine glass, but don’t be afraid to let the wine to warm up! As Albariño increases in temperature, it changes dramatically from more minerally, beeswax, and citrus flavors to those with richer apricot, pear, and apple-like notes.


Compared to other white wines, Albariño tends to taste lighter in body.

While many Albariño wines are known to age for 5–7 years, this wine is usually best consumed a year or two after the vintage. This ensures that the wine will maintain its trademark acidity and bold, fruity aromas.

Food Pairing with Albariño


Albariño wines pair excellently with ceviche and other seafood dishes with citrus and aromatic herbs. By Stu Spivack

Albariño is an excellent food pairing wine given its high acidity and slight bitterness (phenolics), which allow it to act as a palate-cleanser to a wide variety of food textures (oily, creamy, chewy, etc). As a general rule, serve Albariño with light to middle intensity foods (including, white meats and light-colored sauces) and especially with dishes that feature citrus and/or aromatic herbs. A few cuisines to explore with Albariño include Vietnamese, Thai, modern fresh Californian, California-style Sushi, and Caribbean seafood.

Examples

Meat and Protein Shrimp, Scallops, Sea Bass, Halibut, Sole, Tilapia, Octopus, Crab, Trout, Chicken, Tofu, Tofu Skin Cheese Chèvre, Feta, Cotija, Cream Cheese, Monterey Jack, Provolone, Swiss, Gruyere, and Softer Brie-Style Cheeses Herb/Spice Thai Basil, Cilantro, Mint, Shiso, Lemon, Lime, Orange, Tarragon, Chive, Green Onion, Shallot, Ginger, Galangal, Cayenne Pepper, Turmeric, Saffron, Coriander, Cumin, Sesame Seed, Poppyseed, Fennel, Nutmeg, Ajwain, Amchoor Vegetable Carrot, Jicama, Cucumber, Avocado, Butter Lettuce, Endive, Bok Choy, Celery, Onion, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Cactus, Yellow Plum, Orange, Grapefruit, Taro Root, Sweet Potato, Yam, Oyster Mushroom Albariño Day: August 1st is Albariño Day and is celebrated at the Albariño Festival in Cambados, Spain.

Where Albariño Grows

Albariño is indigenous to the Iberian peninsula and is most commonly found in “Green Spain,” in Galicia, where vineyards receive the cooling breezes from the Atlantic ocean. You’ll find most Spanish Albariño wines labeled from Rias Baixas (“rhee-yus by-shus”), which is a sub. In Portugal (where the grape is known as Alvarinho), you’ll find it blended into Vinho Verde wines with other rare white varieties like Arinto, Azal, Loureiro, and Trajadura. Beyond its homeland in the Iberian peninsula, Albariño is starting to spread internationally due to the grape’s high quality and similarity in taste to wines like Pinot Gris, Chenin Blanc, and dry Riesling. You’ll find Albariño also in California, Argentina, New Zealand, Brazil, and even Uruguay.
In the Val do Salnes region of Rias Baixas, vines are traditionally trained on a wire trellis supported by granite posts called a “parra,” which allow breezes to come through and dry the grapes after the region’s frequent showers. By juantiagues

Ideal Terroir for Albariño

The region where Albariño grows in Spain is much cooler and rainier than the rest of the country. The main Albariño region, Rias Baixas, skirts along the coast and the vineyards closer to the sea are known to have the most salinity (from the ocean breezes) and highest minerality. This area has a high prevalence of deep, sandy granite soils which is thought to be the most ideal soil type for this grape.

  • In warmer regions with more clay, you’ll notice Albariño wines will have riper fruit characteristics (more apricot, nectarine, and mango) and less acidity.
  • In cooler regions with more sandy soils, you’ll notice Albarino will develop more citrus fruit characteristics (lime, lemon, and grapefruit) with more acidity.

Albarino (Alvarinho) Wine

Albarino (Alvarinho) is a green-skinned grape variety native to Galicia on the north Atlantic coast of Spain. It is best known as being the key grape variety in the Rias Baixas DO, where it makes plump white wines with peach, citrus and mineral characters that pair perfectly with the local seafood.

The variety is high in acidity, and can be produced as a light white wine or in a fuller style, with oak or lees aging adding to the texture and richness. A marine characteristic from the nearby Atlantic ocean is often discernible, sometimes manifesting itself as a slight salinity, which makes Albarino a perfect food wine. The variety is often made into a lightly sparkling Vinho Verde wine in Portugal, which is commonly labeled varietally to distinguish it from the usual Louriero-based Vinho Verde blend. Here, the variety is known as Alvarinho.

Albarino (Alvarinho) Grapes

Albarino is native to the area in the northwestern corner of the Iberian peninsula, but it is not clear on which side of the border – as it is planted widely on each side. In Spain, Albarino constitutes more than 90 percent of the grapes planted in the Rias Baixas area, where the complex mesoclimates within this DO signify the many different sub-regions and variations between vintages and vineyards.

In Portugal, Alvarinho Vinho Verde wines are sometimes bottled with a certain amount of carbon dioxide, resulting in wines that have a light, sparkling sensation in the mouth. They were the first Portuguese wines to be widely labeled and recognized by their varietal name, and the growth in their popularity has supported a boom in availability and price. These wines are usually intended for early consumption.

The high quality of Albarino and an increased interest in Spanish grape varieties has seen the variety begin to find a home in various other parts of the world. It is planted in some of California’s cooler areas, and Albarino-based wines are beginning to turn heads in New Zealand.

Albarin – also an aromatic white wine variety grown in the northwest of Spain – has been widely assumed to be the same as Albarino. DNA profiling carried out in 2010 showed these to be two quite distinct varieties.

Synonyms include: Alvarinho, Cainho Branco.

Food matches for Albarino include:

  • Percebes (goose barnacles)
  • Paella with lobster and chorizo
  • Green-lipped mussels grilled with parsley butter

Last updated 29-Nov-2015

Salt & pepper squid
Ingredients
  • 3 (about 600g) large cleaned squid hoods
  • 1L (4 cups) vegetable oil
  • 40g (1/4 cup) plain flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground white pepper
  • 1 tsp Chinese five-spice
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder
  • Lemon wedges and soy sauce with
  • sliced fresh red chilli, to serve
Directions
  1. Use a sharp knife to cut through 1 side of each squid hood lengthways. Open out flat with inside surface facing up and score surface diagonally. Cut into 3.5cm squares and pat dry with paper towel.
  2. Heat the oil in a large wok over medium heat until it reaches 190°C on a confectionary/oil thermometer. (Or, add a 5cm cube of bread to the oil – it should turn light golden in 10 seconds.)
  3. Meanwhile, combine the flour, salt, pepper, Chinese five-spice and chilli in a medium bowl. Add the squid and toss gently to coat.
  4. Remove half of the squid from the flour mixture and shake off any excess. Add to the oil and cook, turning with a slotted metal spoon, for 2 minutes or until the squid just turns golden and curls. Use the slotted spoon to transfer the squid to a large plate lined with paper towel to drain. Reheat the oil in the wok to 190°C. Repeat with the remaining squid.
  5. Serve immediately with the lemon wedges and chilli soy sauce.

Top DWWA 2019 award-winning Albariño wines to celebrate Albariño Day

Light-bodied, fresh and mouth-wateringly acidic, Albariño is an indigenous white grape variety from the Iberian Peninsula that has become popular worldwide for its high-quality, refreshing citrus flavours and hint of saltiness.

The region of Rías Baixas reigns king when it comes to Albariño, and the Galician town of Cambados, considered to be the capital of Albariño, is home. For decades this small coastal town has paid homage to their local grape variety with the Fiesta del Albariño, and Albariño Day has been set to coincide with this celebration. With many great award-winning Albariños from the recent Decanter World Wine Awards, what better way to join the celebration than open a top-scoring bottle?

See all DWWA 2019 award-winning wines

This year’s Decanter World Wine Awards saw more than 280 of the world’s best wine experts come together to blind taste close to 17,000 wines. Here we look at some of the top-awarded Albariño and Albariño-based wines to celebrate Albariño Day.

Top-scoring Albariño wines

Bodegas Fillaboa, La Fillaboa 1898 Albariño, Rías Baixas, Spain 2010

Points – 97
DWWA 2019 Best in Show: Our second Galicia Best In Show white is a clear contrast to the first. Eight years ageing for this Albariño from the granite-soiled region of Rias Baixas has left the wine a glowing gold in colour with beguilingly developed aromas of nuts, sweet balsam and wet moss on old stones. The wine is unoaked, so all of that aromatic richness is coming from the fruit itself and time’s work on it. In the mouth, it is rich too, but dryly so, gracious and expansive, and beginning to hint more clearly at ground stone than to the summer fruits and flowers of youth, with that incipient nutty richness providing further complexities. A blind-tasting puzzle – and a very delicious dinner-party white. Drink 2019-2021.

Paco & Lola, Albariño, Rías Baixas, Spain 2012

Points – 96
DWWA 2019 Gold Medal: Mellow aromas of quince, caramel, very ripe apple, ginger and savoury notes. Intense and vibrant acidity supported by a delicious concentration. Long and complex finish.

Cambados Urban Winery, Desconcierto Albariño, Rías Baixas, Spain 2018

Points – 96
DWWA 2019 Gold Medal: Very pretty and pure aromas of crisp yellow pears with a fragrant citrus quality. Candied fruit character on the mid-palate, with great concentration and incredible length. Very well constructed.

Pazo de Villarei, Albariño, Rías Baixas, Spain 2018

Points – 95
DWWA 2019 Gold Medal: Classic stone fruit, citrus character, with good fruit concentration, some savoury character. The wine shows power and density in palate, with much fruit, very clean and expressive.

Bodegas As Laxas, Laxas Albariño, Rías Baixas, Spain 2018

Points – 94
DWWA 2019 Silver Medal: Clean, well defined, with some spiciest and white fruit. Balanced, appealing, with fresh acidity and a lingering finish.

Valmiñor, Davila Albariño-Loureiro-Treixadura, Rías Baixas, Spain 2017

Points – 93
DWWA Silver Medal: The nose exudes peaches, ripe lemon peel and a delicate floral character. Crystalline on the palate. Fresh and vibrant with ripe fruit.

Most Wanted, Albariño, Rías Baixas, Spain 2018

Points – 93
DWWA Silver Medal: Expressive, ripe and complex nose with herbal and balsamic notes and a lemony character. Round, rich and flavourful palate. Long.

Learn more about the Fiesta del Albariño here.

Te Awa Left Field Albariño, Gisborne, New Zealand 2018 (£10.95, The Wine Society) In a competition for the Iberian Peninsula’s greatest white grape variety, albariño (or alvarinho) would certainly be among the leading contenders. But it’s only really in recent years that it’s started to get a foothold in other countries. The results are getting better by the harvest, as the vines, often in coastal sites, mature, with the variety’s natural salty-freshness, white flowers and peachy fruit being given a local twist from Uruguay to California, Australia and New Zealand. That country’s Gisborne region, on the east coast of the North Island, is home to one of the most consistent albariños around: squeaky clean and bright with its ripe, floral-inflected fruit, it has a textural kinship with the country’s sauvignons, but a refreshingly different range of flavours.

Pazo de Señorans Albariño, Rías Baixas, Spain 2017 (£15.95, Hennings; Virgin Wines) The climatic influence of the Atlantic is strong on albariño in northwest Spain and Portugal; and no less so on the other side of the ocean in Uruguay. Certainly, there’s something saline in the tongue-tingling raciness of Bouza Albariño, Montevideo, Uruguay 2018 (£19.95, Jeroboams). It’s a wine that stands up well to comparisons with the best of Spanish albariño from Rías Baixas in Galicia, such as those made by the excellent Pazo de Señorans. The company’s straight Albariño 2017 is a textbook combination of breeziness and fleshiness with a shellfish-ready citrus-and-mineral edge. Pazo de Señorans Selección Añada Albariño 2007 (£39.50, The Wine Society) is still more magnificently minerally, spicy and herbal-honeyed. It’s a seriously fine white wine.

Casa de Vila Nova Alvarinho, Minho, Portugal 2018 (£9.69, Rannoch Scott; Wines of Interest; Kwoff) In the supermarkets, albariño does a nice line in affordable easy-drinkers from Rías Baixas, with the own-label versions by Sainsbury’s (Taste the Difference), Waitrose (Viña Taboexa) and Aldi (Exquisite) each being pretty good in an easy-breezy way without touching the heights. Waitrose also has one of the first French examples of the variety, Laurent Miquel Albariño 2017 (£11.49), which has a distinctly pink grapefruity citrus tang. Then there is the other part of the variety’s original home, across the border from Galicia into northern Portugal, where alvarinho is widely used as a blending component in the improving, zesty, often-gently spritzy, light whites of Vinho Verde, but is also increasingly made as a single-varietal, such as the graceful, vital, subtly floral Casa de Vila Nova.

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Pour yourself some Albariño, Iberia’s latest wine success story

One of the great Spanish success stories over the past few years has been Albariño, which now sits alongside Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc as one of our most popular white grapes.

In Spain, Albariño generally means the Rías Baixas region in Galicia. Over the Miño/Minho river in Portugal, Albariño becomes Alvarinho. Here in Ireland, Alvarinho wines have taken huge leaps forward in quality over the past few years. They are generally a little lighter than their Spanish counterparts but share that irresistible combination of plump, ripe pears and peaches and a cleansing citric acidity.

Can a wine be salty? Many of the wines from both sides of the Iberian border seem to have a delicious, distinctly saline quality, and some are grown very close to the sea. Try the Lagar de Costa from O’Briens (€16.95, a nice wine and great value for money), made from vines growing metres from the beach, to see what I mean.

Until recently, although I enjoyed Rías Baixas, I had rarely come across really great versions of the grape that were worth a premium. But over the past year I have come across some stunning wines. Most are from single vineyards, made using grapes plucked from very elderly vines. Sadly, most cost €20-€30 a bottle. Given that the first €5 you spend on a bottle of wine goes on tax, an extra €10-€15 buys you a lot of wine. In most cases you really will notice the difference between a €10 Rías Baixas and one at €20.

O’Briens has no fewer than 11 Albariños, ranging in price from €12.95 to €45, including the Lagar de Costa and a favourite of mine, Pazo de Señorans. Aldi has a very decent Exquisite Collection Rîas Baixas for €9.99 and the superior Albanta for €10.99. SuperValu has its exclusive Abeillo and Lola & Paco (both for €14.99). Dunnes Stores also has the Paco & Lola alongside three other Albariños. Marks & Spencer has both a Rîas Baixas (€13.30) and a tasty Vinho Verde for €11. Look out for the excellent Zarate (about €20) in independents.

From Portugal, the Celtic Whiskey Shop has four excellent wines, all from the winemaker Anselmo Mendes: the Muros Eshola (a blend including 20 per cent Alvarinho, amazing value at €14), the Muros Antigos below, the Contacto (€20) and the Muros de Milgaço (€27.50). JNwine.com has the Soalheiro wines – here it is worth paying €4 extra for the wine below.

Both Alvarinho and Albariño are the perfect match for all kinds of shellfish, as well as octopus and hake. I can think of few nicer things in life than a platter of shellfish served alongside a glass of good Albariño. You could certainly expand on this to include sushi, sashimi, grilled white fish and fresh goat’s cheese salads.

Muros Antigos Alvarinho 2018, Monção e Melgaço, Vinho Verde
13%, €18.50
This has it all at an unbeatable price: spring flowers, succulent yellow apples and pears, slightly pithy lemon zest and a long, dry finish. With summer salads featuring soft goat’s cheese, herbs and lemon.
From Wines on the Green, Dublin 2, celticwhiskeyshop.com; Nolan’s, Dublin 3, nolans.ie; McCabes Wines, Dublin 18, mccabeswines.ie

Soalheiro Alvarinho 2018, Monção e Melgaço, Vinho Verde
12.5%, €21-€22
A very seductive blend of lemon zest and light tropical fruits – pineapples and mango, with a crisp dry finish. Light and nervy. With seafood or meze.
From jnwine.com; Ely 64, Glasthule, Co Dublin, ely64.com; the Corkscrew, Dublin 2, thecorkscrew.ie; Lilac Wines, Dublin 3, lilacwines.ie

Leirana, Albarino, Forjas del Salnes 2018
12%, €24
Wonderful, subtle wine with plump ripe peach fruits, a touch of orange peel and lemon zest, and a wonderful saline edge. Dublin Bay prawns with home-made mayonnaise.
From 1601 Off-licence, Kinsale, Co Cork; Ely 64, Glasthule, Co Dublin, ely64.com; Blackrock Cellar, Co Dublin, blackrockcellar.com; Bradleys Off-licence, Cork, bradleysofflicence.ie; Loose Canon, Dublin 2, loosecanon.ie; Green Man Wines, Dublin 6, greenmanwines.ie; Red Island Wine Co, Skerries, Co Dublin; Whelehan’s Wines, Dublin 18, whelehanswines.ie

Sesenta e Nove Arrobas 2017, Rías Baixas, Bodegas Albamar
13%, €34
The basic Albamar (€21-€22, independents) is a favourite but this is one of the best white wines I have tasted this year. Exquisite floral aromas of honeysuckle and white flowers. Luscious pears and zesty lemon, with a saline mineral core. Warm poached lobster with sinful quantities of garlic butter.
From Ely 64, Glasthule, Co Dublin, ely64.com; Green Man Wines, Dublin 6, greenmanwines.ie