Bring on the Albarino

Posted by Joelle Thomson on

New Zealand’s next white wine success or a blip on the radar?

Albarino is also known as Alvarinho and is the most successful alternative new grape variety to be planted in New Zealand since, well, possibly since Sauvignon Blanc came along. Not that anyone is realistically suggesting Albarino could displace Sauvignon. Rather, it is now clear, after half a decade of commercial exploration and experimentation that Albarino offers a varietal wine of purity, character and wide appeal that can be produced for a relatively modest price. Think: I don't need a second mortgage to afford to try it. 

Buy Albarino from Spain and New Zealand here

The word Albarino is the Spanish name for the same grape that the Portuguese call Alvarinho. Wines made from this grape come from the same part of the Iberian Peninsula, namely, Galicia in north west Spain and directly over the border in north of Portugal. It is one of the key ingredients in the famous Vinho Verde wines of Portugal but is also used to produce single varietal wines in both countries. 

Albarino is making a big impact in New Zealand, thanks to this country’s maritime climate, which is uncannily similar to that of its both its homeland regions on the Iberian Peninsula. 

How does it grow?

It's vigorous, robust and fertile, budding in the middle of the season and ripening pretty early on, which helps Albarino to dodge weather events such as frost or rain, both of which can negatively impact grapevines that ripen late. 

Albarino grows small bunches of thick skinned grapes and has naturally high acidity, which makes wine taste fresh and also provides lingering flavours as well as strong aging potential - acidity is a preservative. 

How much Albarino is there?

There were 2,340 hectares of Albarino in Portugal in 2010 and 5,320 hectares in Spain; most of it in the Rias Baixas DO, where the varietal dominates, occupying approximately 90% of the region's vineyards.

There is significantly less in this country where numbers have not, so far, been measured but careful experimentation into Albarino production is seeing slow and steady growth in numbers.

Does a new product have to be produced in big volumes to be deemed a success? If so, it would be easy to discard Albarino as just another experimental wine in this country but numbers don't always tell the full story and the early wines from a wide range of regions and producers all show more promise than any other single new varietal wine in decades.

Watch this space... We certainly are. 

Who makes it in New Zealand?

Here are the Albarino producers we stock in New Zealand. There are others. Volumes remain small but are most certainly growing. For fans of the great Neudorf Vineyards in Nelson, small amounts of Albarino are made and sold solely at the cellar door; just another reason to visit this lovely winery. And next time you're catching waves at Wainui Beach in the great Gisborne region, add a visit to Matawhero Wines to taste and buy their Albarino. 

These and other wineries are showing that Albarino suits a wide range of growing conditions in New Zealand, retaining its distinctive flavours in each place. And that's no mean feat for any grape variety. Bring on the Albarino...

Buy Albarino from Spain and New Zealand here

2018 Astrolabe Kekerengu Coast Albarino RRP $

Buy here

2020 Babich Headwaters Organic Albarino RRP $22.99

Buy here

2021 Esk Valley Artisanal Albarino RRP $24.99

Buy here

2020 Forrest Estate Albarino RRP $24.99

Buy here

2020 Nautilus Albarino RRP $28.99

Buy here

2020 Smith & Sheth Heretaunga Albarino RRP $31.99

Buy here 

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