Chambour-huh? Vidal who? Need some help demystifying some of Pennsylvania’s most essential wine words? The PA Wine Land Post is at your service, schooling you on the grapes you need to know.
Varietal: Albariño (pronounced ahl-buh-REEN-yoh)
Grown: Across Pennsylvania
Similar to: Sauvignon Blanc or dry Riesling
Albariño is a white grape, made famous by wines produced in Galicia, a region of northwest Spain, and northwest Portugal. Historians believe the vine was brought to the Iberian peninsula (the landmass that contains Spain and Portugal) by French monks in the twelfth century.
Boasting a cool, rainy climate, Galicia has a lot in common with some areas of Pennsylvania, and the grape is becoming increasingly popular with Commonwealth winemakers. In warmer regions with more clay in the soil, the wines often have riper fruit flavors (apricot, nectarine, and mango) and less acidity. In cooler regions with sandier soil, Albariño will showcase stronger citrus notes (lime, lemon, and grapefruit) and higher acidity. When the thick-skinned grapes are grown close to the sea, they synthesize the air’s salinity, imparting a slight brine-y quality to the finished wines.
Albariño is an approachable wine that drinks zippy, fresh, and dry. Fans of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc should definitely give it a taste. Like other cold-weather European whites such as Viognier or Gewurztraminer, Albariño is famous for its distinctive botanical aroma — think apricot and peach. You can also expect aromas of lemon, lime, pear, grapefruit, honeysuckle, and beeswax, in addition to subtle notes of wet granite and Thai basil.
Drink these wines when they’re young, ideally within 16 months of harvest — it ensures that the wine will maintain its trademark acidity and bold aromas. Tasting notes include the gentle funk of lees (spent yeast), nectarine, melon, and citrus. Wines made from Albariño can also retain a slight bitter note, a relic from the large number of seeds in the grapes.
The crowd-pleasing white is incredibly food-friendly. The most obvious pairing for Albariño is fresh seafood, prepared with citrus and herbs. Those dishes will affirm the character of the wine. The other option is to deploy deeply savory flavors like mushroom-y soft cheese or char-grilled meat, creating a contrast with the wine and making its brightness pop.
If you’re serving Albariño, you can never go wrong by looking to the cuisine of Spain — the grape’s homeland — serving simple, seared seafood, charcuterie, salted potatoes or roasted peppers.
Albariño also makes a wonderful apéritif. The freshness of the wine will prime your palette and pair beautifully with a full array of salty pre-dinner snacks.
Below is a sampling of PA Albariño wines for you to try from all across PA Wine Land. Check your local wineries for more Albariño wines.