What Is Albarino Wine?

A Guide to Buying, Drinking, and Pairing Albarino

food pairings for albarino wine

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In This Article

Albariño (al-bar-EEN-yo) is a white wine grape primarily grown in Spain's Rías Baixas region. It is also grown in Portugal's Vinho Verde region (where it is known as alvarinho) and in California's central coast. The resulting light-bodied white wines are dry, relatively low alcohol, and refreshingly acidic, making them especially food-friendly and perfect for drinking on a hot day. Flavors and aromas of sweet melon, citrus, and honeysuckle are common.

Fast Facts

  • Regions: Rías Baixas, Ribeiro, Ribeira Sacra, Monterrei, Vinho Verde (Portugal), California
  • Origin: Rías Baixas, Spain
  • Sweetness: Dry
  • Color: Light straw yellow
  • ABV: 12–14%

Taste and Flavor Profile

Albariño is a dry white wine with aromas of citrus and peach. On the palate, the wine can exhibit characteristics of grapefruit, lemon peel, apricot, and sweet melon. Because the grapes tend to grow in coastal regions, they can also have a touch of salinity. Some wines may exhibit a slightly bitter finish, similar to citrus pith. 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 flavors if left in the bottle for too long.

How to Taste Wine

Follow a few steps when tasting wine to ensure you have the best experience:

  1. Look: Examine the wine through the glass, noticing the color and opacity.
  2. Smell: Swirl the wine in your glass for 10 seconds and breath in the aroma. Stick your nose into the glass for a deep inhale, getting a first impression of the wine.
  3. Taste: Take a small sip and let it roll around in your mouth. Note the sugar, acidity, tannins, and alcohol level when first tasting, then move on to specific tasting notes (spice, fruit, wood) followed by the finish.

Grapes and Wine Regions

Albariño is best known as a Spanish white wine grape grown in the five subregions of Rías Baixas. Characteristics in the wines can differ depending on the region, with inland vineyards producing fruitier wines and coastal vineyards producing wines with more salinity. It is also grown in other Spanish wine regions like Ribeiro, Ribeira Sacra, and Monterrei, where is often blended with other grapes like Loureiro and Godello. Portugal also grows a notable amount of albariño, but often blends the grape with other white wine grapes.

The hardy vines are traditionally grown on overhead pergolas, protecting the thin-skinned, small grapes from mildew and rot. The grapevines prefer well-draining sandy or granite soils on land that experiences cool, coastal climates with sunny days. Albariño has a summer growing season and is usually harvested from early September to mid-October, depending on the region and weather conditions. Vines are typically low-yield.

Food Pairings

The crisp, acidic white wines pair especially well with fresh seafood. Try serving albariño with steamed mussels, shrimp risotto, grilled octopus, or any white fish or shellfish. White meat like chicken and lean pork also pair well. Cheeses like salty feta or creamy burrata play nicely with albariño's freshness, as do fresh vegetables and creamy dressings, like a classic caesar salad. The perky wine also pairs surprisingly well with Cajun food.

Serve albariño well-chilled in a white wine glass. The perky wines are meant to be drunk young, preferably with 16 months of harvest. Since albariños are not meant for cellaring, stick them in the fridge when you return home from the store. The refreshing wine will be ready to serve at a moment's notice.

Key Producers, Brands, and Buying Tips

Albariño is frequently available at wine shops, on restaurant menus, and can sometimes be found in supermarkets and liquor stores. The white wine tends to be affordable, with options ranging from under $15 up to $50. Some balanced options from reputable wineries are available in the $15 to $20 range, and the wine is easily ordered online or through a shop if needed. While quality albariño wines are made in other parts of the world including California, look for bottles from Rías Baixas for a genuine experience. If you can't find albariño, try a bottle of dry Gewürztraminer instead.

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