Albariño is the primary grape used to make dry white wine in the Rias Baixes (Lower Inlets) section of the Galicia region of Northwestern Spain. Considered by many to be Spain’s premier quality white wine, Albariño is also known in Portugal as Alvarinho and often used as a component of Vinho Verde.
Weather conditions in the Rias Baixes are generally cool, windy and rainy. Vines must be trained high and open to allow winds to dry them out and avoid the ongoing threat of rot, mildew and other fungal diseases. Notably, Albariño grapes develop thick skins here, contributing to their intense aromas.
Typically, wines made from Albariño are very aromatic, often described as having scents of almonds or almond paste, apples, peaches, citrus, and flowers or grass. Albariño wines are particularly suited to seafood due to their bracing acidity (Jancis Robinson calls it “razor-sharp.”). This grape’s inherent tartness should be embraced in youth, for wines made from albariño do not age well, and the vibrant aromas begin to noticeably fade within months of bottling.
Although very few acres are planted in California, nascent interest in growing and producing Albariño began in the mid-1990s. Bob Lindquist, of Qupé, had about 150 acres planted in the Ibarra-Young Vineyard in Los Olivos and has released some under the “Verdad” label. Bryan Babcock has also experimented with making Albariño from the Santa Ynez area. Michael Havens planted three acres in Carneros in 1996. He felt there was some ecological parallel in the region’s cool and windy conditions that also exist in Galicia, Spain. Under the Havens label, he produced about 400 cases from the 2001 vintage. Bokisch Vineyards has substantial plantings in Lodi. Abacela Vineyards in Oregon’s Umpqua Valley is notable for their successes with Albariño.
In March 2002, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau approved using Albariño as a varietal designation on domestic labels. We’ll keep updating this page as interest and production grows.