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When it comes to Spanish white wines, one grape varietal stands head and shoulders above the rest. Albarino is the most distinctive of the white grapes from this country, and it is also grown widely in Portugal’s Vinho Verde region, where it is known as Alvarinho. In Spain, its heartland is Galicia, the celtic-tinged, rainy northern part of the country, and traditionally it was used as a blending grape, adding finesse to wines made from Loureiro and Godello. However, since the 1980s, it has been celebrated for its exceptional characteristics, and is now very commonly found in single varietal wines.
The Albarino grape is a thick skinned, small and round fruit. The skin helps to protect the grape from the harsh weather conditions typical in Galicia, and the juice within tends to be very high in glycerol, resulting in highly acidic wines bursting with freshness and capable of expressing much of the terroir on which it is grown. Wines made from Albarino are capable of ageing quite beautifully, thanks to the relatively high levels of acid, and many modern winemakers are experimenting with oak ageing, achieving great results. The wine’s main characteristics, though, are intense aromatic qualities, reminiscent of apricots, peaches and almonds. It’s most highly appreciated examples come from the Galician DOC of Rias Baixas, although recently Californian examples have impressed on the world stage, too.