Looking for the best albariño wine? Want to know our pick of this Spanish grape? Read our expert guide then check out our favourite vineyards in the UK for tours, tastings and overnight stays among the vines.
What is albariño wine?
Whisper ‘albariño’ into the ear of any lover of Spanish wine and watch their eyes light up. Characterised by its aromatic peachiness, citric zip and saline minerality, crowd-pleasing albariño was once very much a wine geek secret. Now it’s firmly established as one of Spain’s most favoured white wine grapes.
Its home is the coastal Rías Baixas region of Galicia (on the northwest tip of Spain), whose narrow estuaries, called rías, jut their craggy fingers into the Atlantic Ocean. Galicia is a long way from the parched plains and sun-soaked costas to the south – the landscape here is green and lush, and rainfall is high. It’s more reminiscent of the west coast of Ireland than of Alicante, and it shares more of Ireland’s Celtic cultural roots than those of the rest of Spain.
Although albariño has been grown here since Roman times, it flourished from the 12th century onwards, quenching the thirsts of countless pilgrims en route to the holy city of Santiago de Compostela. But the late 1800s saw devastating population and economic decline, and most vineyards were abandoned. The tide of fortune turned when Spain joined the EU in 1986. Funds were made available for huge investments in Galicia’s moribund wine industry, and albariño is now the jewel in its very successful crown.
It makes a bullseye match with any of the brilliant Galician seafood found there in abundance. Fishing has been the mainstay of the economy for hundreds of years, and because fishermen would be at sea for weeks on end, it was the women who tended the vines and made the wine. It’s a tradition that continues today – many of the best producers have female winemakers at their helm.
In neighbouring Vinho Verde, in the north of Portugal, the wine is known as alvarinho and is often blended in those light, spritzy wines most associated with the region – or, increasingly, made into serious, single-varietal wines that really shine. If you can’t get to the seaside this spring, grab an albariño and let the seaside come to you. Shellfish, sunglasses and swimsuits optional.
Best albariño wine to buy
Katia Álvarez heads up the wine-making at this famous albariño producer. Bags of zesty lime with a long and fruity finish makes a classy match with lobster thermidor.
Fragrant notes of grapefruit and jasmine with a bracing sea-breeze freshness. A great-value alvarinho from one of Vinho Verde’s oldest estates. Have it with fish and chips, and imagine you’re at the beach.
A cracking albariño from New Zealand. Partly fermented with natural yeasts, this wine is versatile and food-friendly. Drink with white bean stew with coconut, kale and ginger.
The first traditional- method sparkling albariño made in Rías Baixas, this bone-dry fizz in its beautiful blue bottle makes an off-beat celebratory aperitif. Perfect with a plate of oysters.