Planning an escape across the channel to Spain or Portugal this summer? You just have to discover Albariño wine or Alvariño as it’s known in Portugal.
A fresh and bright dry white wine, Albariño, pronounced “alba-reen-yo”, is best drunk young and paired with fish and seafood. But don’t worry it pairs just as well with lighter meats, vegetables and fresh green herbs too.
Albariño wine is a delightfully refreshing coastal white that grows on the Iberian Peninsula, kissed by the Atlantic Ocean. It’s loved for its rich stone fruit flavours such as peaches and nectarines, a hint of salinity, and zippy high acidity.
Grown trained high on pergolas Albariño prefers cool and intermediate climates such as Spanish Galicia and the Vino Verde region of Portugal, which experiences heavy Atlantic storms. The area offers more than 2,000 hours of growing degree days, making it possible to fully ripen Albariño. Even with its thick skins and hardy vines, Albariño is sensitive to mildew and rot. This is why the grape thrives in well-drained sandy and granite soils.
It is not clear on which side of the Portuguese or Spanish border Albariño originated, as it is planted widely on both sides.
How Is Albariño Made?
Albariño is made like other white wines, in which the grapes are harvested, macerated into the must then placed in tanks to ferment with yeasts. Some winemakers chose to use long-contact time with the lees (sediments at the bottom of the tank) which helps give the wine a richer mouthfeel. Others chose not to use this method, producing a wine that is fresh and light.
The colour of pale straw, Albariño has fresh tastes of lemon zest, grapefruit, honey melon, nectarine, saline and some minerals. The saline and mineral elements provide a hint of its Atlantic terroir.
In Portugal, Alvariñho Vinho Verde wines are sometimes bottled with a certain amount of carbon dioxide, resulting in wines that have a light, sparkling feel in the mouth. They were the first Portuguese wines to be widely labelled and recognised by their varietal name.
How Should You Drink Albariño?
Overall, Albariño is light-bodied and low in tannins but high in acid. The high acidity makes this wine refreshingly mouth-watering and best served well-chilled. Albariño should be drunk while young (preferably within 16 months) since the wine can develop undesirable flavours if left in the bottle for too long.
With its high acidity and refreshing lightness, Albariño is a perfect food wine. A friend to all things from the sea, Albariño pairs exceptionally well with seafood and white fish and meats. But it stands up to a lot of other food pairings if you don’t fancy fish such as vegetables and fresh herbs too.
Good Food Pairings For Albariño
The best pairings for a young and fresh Albariño include:
- Seafood: Oysters, Fresh white crab, Fresh prawns or shrimp, Mixed shellfish platters, Steamed mussels or clams, simple grilled fish such as sea bass, cod or sardines. The crisp acidity, zesty citrus flavours, and bit of saltiness are a perfect match for all types of shellfish.
- Sushi: Similar to shellfish, Albariño and sushi are a fantastic pairing. There is just enough body in Albariño to hold up to the sushi rice and the salinity in the wine can tame the nori flavours.
- Cheeses: Light creamy cheeses like this dish. Try burrata and beetroot as well as goat’s milk cheese. Burrata is an Italian cow milk cheese made from mozzarella and cream.
- A good leek risotto is a good pairing too with fresh herbs
- All fresh and light salads.
- Thai: Instead of seafood, try adding some subtle Thai or other dishes with a Caribbean flair. This zesty varietal should be able to handle all the flavours. Just make sure the dish isn’t too spicy, or it will overpower the wine.
If you break across the channel happens to be Portugal and you are a seafood lover, you’re in for a treat.
Portugal, as a sea-faring nation, is home to some of the freshest, most delicious seafood in Europe. There’s a huge variety of fish and seafood brought in daily and Portugal has the highest consumption of fish per capita of any European country.
Signature Dish: Arroz de Tamboril. Tamboril is Portuguese for monkfish. While not as popular and widely eaten as cod, there are still a huge amount of dishes all along the coast that serve it in a variety of ways. A common dish is Arroz de Tamboril, where the delicate, flaky fish is cooked in tomato, laurel, garlic and rice to become a delicious, risotto-style dish, often complete with delicious prawns and other seafood. Rustic cooking at its best! And the perfect wine accompaniment? Vinho Verde Alvariñho, of course.
For delicate yet complex dishes like this, you want a wine that doesn’t overshadow or overpower the fish. Vinho Verde in the north of Portugal is famous for producing refreshing, high-acid white wines from a variety of grape varieties, the most prized of all being Alvariñho. For the very best, look out for any bottling by Adega Soalheiro.
What Is Albariño Wine Similar To?
Albariño has been likened to Sauvignon Blanc but with higher acidity and zesty minerality. Its popularity has surged in recent years as the wine-loving public has discovered its versatility.
Is Albarino Wine Expensive?
The short answer on expense is that no, it’s good wine at a fraction of the cost of a bottle of noble grapes.
As an example, take a look at Berry Bros & Rudd Aalbarino by Bodegas Sucesores de Benito Santos 2019, an excellent and well-priced all-rounder of crispness and refreshing tastes. Perfect for a picnic, early summer lunch or even a roast chicken. All this for a mere £14 from BBR. That’s a top-of-the-range Albariño.
Your local grocer stocks some great bottles for under 10 quid. Try Tesco’s Finest Viña del Rey Albariño Rías Baixas 2020.
So one doesn’t even have to cross the Channel to try this wine and it’s not going to cost you an arm and leg. It’s a great summer dry white to share with friends on a picnic or next to a stream after a tramp.
But if you are planning that Iberian getaway for some sun and fun, you’re in for a treat. Enjoy!