For many, Albariño is a synonym for Rías Baixas wines and, in fact, for most of us, a synonym of top quality Galician whites.
Its small round grapes grow in large bunches which can concentrate a great deal of sugar without losing acidity. It is believed that monks from the Order of Cluny first brought the Albariño variety to Spain in the 12th century. Many locals think it is closely related to Riesling grapes and, in fact, both varieties do produce aromatic, floral and fruit wines with a splendid acidity and a great capacity for expressing the character of their terroirs.
The typical image of Albariño vineyards in Galicia is of vines trained on pergolas, high above the ground and potentially harmful damp conditions. Another advantage of this system is that the plants receive more sunlight this way, which is essential for good ripening. It also means that grapes must be harvested by hand which may, in part, explain the relatively high prices of some Albariño wines.
Albariño is often blended with other Atlantic-style white grapes in Galicia and Portugal but more and more winemakers have decided to show its qualities and opt for single-variety Albariños nowadays, especially in the DO Rías Baixas appellation. Finally, it is also commonly used in blends in Ribeiro and Valdeorras.
Albariño wines are fresh, aromatic and fruity. They usually have aromas of citric fruit or peaches depending on the character of the vineyard and they always present an excellent minerality. The versatility of this splendid white grape means it is possible to find wines in almost every kind of style, from light young whites to robust oak-aged wines, or to enjoy the creaminess of wines worked on their lees. It undoubtedly pairs perfectly with the fish and shellfish of the sea it grows so close to.