Albariño: Five Fast Facts
August 1-5 are the official International Albariño Days! Let’s learn about this refreshing seafood-friendly white wine!
1. You pronounce it like “jalapeño.”
If you’ve studied Spanish, you know about the letter ñ (pronounced en-yay). Any word with ñ is pronounced with an “n” followed by a “yo.” (Jalapeño, Español, etc.) Albariño’s pronunciation is therefore “al-ba-reen-yo.”
2. Older vineyards grow and harvest Albariño grapes in an unusual way.
Karen MacNeil in The Wine Bible illustrates this process: workers train vines to grow 10 feet off the ground on canopies of wires attached to granite columns. When it’s time for harvest, tractors with workers on stepladders pick the grapes from above their heads! These workers are pretty daring!
3. It is a major grape in Vinho Verde.
Vinho Verde (veen-yo var-day) is a wine from northern Portugal, right next to the Rías Baixas (ree-yus bai-hoss) region where Albariño grapes grow. I discuss both these wines in my summer white wine post, where I celebrate their freshness and zest. Most grapes in Vinho Verde wines are in fact Albariño, where it’s called Alvarinho (al-vah-reen-yo).
4. It has been around a long time, but only became popular over the last few decades.
MacNeil writes that some 200+ year old Albariño vines still grow in Galacia, where Rías Baixas is located. But the residents only made it for their drinking until the 1980s. Eric Asimov says that it wasn’t until the mid 1990s when Albariño made its debut in the United States on menus of Spanish restaurants. When you drink Albariño, you’re enjoying something that its growers have both treasured for centuries and innovated as an up-and-coming wine. This seems to make it a pretty good value at wine stores.
5. Albariño is one of the best wines for seafood.
You’ll notice that Albariño is a little salty, and that could be because its vineyards are close to the ocean, making it great for seafood. According to the book What to Drink with What you Eat by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page, Albariño is a wine perfect for any seafood, especially shellfish. Therefore, I think Spanish seafood paella would taste great with this wine. A crawfish boil or king crab with drawn butter and some Old Bay seasoning also sound like heavenly matches!
With Summer in full swing, now is the time to grab a bottle and enjoy a refreshing treat. You can find a high-quality bottle for about $15 and up. Or, if you want to try Vinho Verde, many bottles go well below $10 and are a fantastic value. Get some shrimp tacos while you’re at it.