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Albariño is a variety of white wine grape grown in Galicia (northwest Spain) and Monção (northwest Portugal), where it is used to make varietal white wines. Albariño is actually the Galician name for the grape, with Albarín Blanco an occasional synonym. In Portugal it is known as Alvarinho, and sometimes as Cainho Branco.[1] It was presumably brought to Iberia by Cluny monks in the twelfth century. Its name "Alba-Riño" means "the white [wine] from the Rhine" and it has locally been thought to be a Riesling clone originating from the Alsace region of France, although earliest known records of Riesling as a grape variety date from the 15th, rather than the 12th, century. It is also theorized that the grape is a close relative of the French grape Petit Manseng.[2] It should not be confused with the Alvarinho Liláz grape of Madeira.  

Wine description light, high acidity, aromatic, redolent of peaches and apricots and can display a complex array of flavours
Food pairing seafood, shell fish, tapas style dishes
Origin Portugal
Notable regions Galicia, Spain; Minho, Portugal
Notable wines Rias Baixas, Vinho Verde (Vinho Alvarino)

Major regions

Spain produces Albariño to a significant degree in the Rías Baixas DO, especially in the town of Cambados.[3] It is also common in the Vinho Verde region of Portugal, but it is only authorized to be grown in Monção. In other locations such as Ribeiro, Lima, Braga or Valdeorras it is often mixed with other grapes such as Loureiro, Godello, Caiño, Arinto or Treixadura to produce blended wines. Such blends were common throughout Galicia too until about 1985; when the Rías Baixas DO was established on an experimental basis in 1986, Albariño began to emerge as a varietal, both locally and internationally.[4]

Albariño's recent emergence as a varietal led the wines to be "crafted for the palates of Europe, America and beyond and for wine drinkers who wanted clean flavors and rich, ripe fruit" and led to wines completely different from those produced across the river in Portugal.[4]

Albariño is now produced in several California regions including Santa Ynez Valley and Clarksburg, AVA's. In recent years Albariño has attracted the attention of Australian winemakers, several of whom are now producing varietal wines. However, it has recently been discovered that grape growers and wine makers in Australia have been supplying and selling wrongly labelled Albarino for over a decade. They thought they were pouring money into the market for the Spanish grape, only to discover they were incorrectly sold cuttings of the French Savagnin grape instead.

A French expert visiting Australia raised questions in 2008 and DNA testing has confirmed that the grapes are in fact French Savagnin. Almost all wine in Australia labelled as Albarino will be Savagnin.[5]

Wine characteristics

The grape is noted for its distinctive aroma, very similar to that of Viognier, Gewurztraminer, and Petit Manseng, suggesting apricot and peach. The wine produced is unusually light, and generally high in acidity with alcohol levels of 11.5-12.5%.[3] Its thick skins and large number of pips can cause residual bitterness.


In the beginning of the 20th century, Albarino vines could be found growing around the trunks of poplar trees and in bushes along the outside margins of a field. However, in the middle of the century, the growers made big investments and became professional grape growers.[6] When grown in a vineyard, the vines need to be wire trained with large canopies to accommodate the 30 to 40 buds per vine that is typical. The grape responds well to the heat and humidity though the high yields and bunching of clusters usually keeps the grapes within the margins of ripeness.[3]

See Also:

Home Wine Page
History of Wine
Classification of Wines
Science of Taste
The Science of Wine Aroma
About the Acids in Wine
Polyphenols (Tannins) in Wine
Oak in Wines
The Basic Wine Pairing Rules
Science of Food and Wine Pairing
Sugars in Wine
About Wine Tasting
Wine Tasting Terms
Storage of Wine
Aging of Wine
Wine Acessories
Headaches from Wine
About a Wine Sommelier


  1. Oz Clarke Encyclopedia of Grapes pg 37 Harcourt Books 2001
  2. Oz Clarke Encyclopedia of Grapes pg 167 Harcourt Books 2001
  3. Oz Clarke Encyclopedia of Grapes pg 36 Harcourt Books 2001
  4. Split Personality, a December 2002 Wine Spectator article (registration required to read archived article)
  5. White, Leslie (April 15, 2009). "White wine fiasco". The Weekly Times. http://www.weeklytimesnow.com.au/article/2009/04/15/70855_horticulture.html.
  6. Garrido, João; Mota, Teresa.Manual Técnico, Comissão de Viticultura dos Vinhos Verdes, 2004
  7. Alvharinho, Vitis International Variety Catalogue, accessed 2010-11-23

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