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Albariño

Albariño (Alvarinho in Portugal) is a green-skinned grape variety native to Galicia on the north Atlantic coast of Spain. It is best known as being the key grape variety in the Rías Baixas DO, where it makes plump white wines with peach, citrus and mineral characters that pair perfectly with the local seafood.

The variety is high in acidity, and can be produced as a light white wine or in a fuller style, with oak or lees ageing adding to the texture and richness. A marine characteristic from the nearby Atlantic ocean is often discernible, sometimes manifesting itself as a slight salinity, which makes Albariño a perfect food wine. The variety is often made into a lightly sparkling Vinho Verde wine in Portugal, which is commonly labelled varietally to distinguish it from the usual Louriero-based Vinho Verde blend. Here, the variety is known as Alvarinho.

Albariño is native to the area in the northwestern corner of the Iberian peninsula, but it is not clear on which side of the border – as it is planted widely on each side. In Spain, Albariño constitutes more than 90 percent of the grapes planted in the Rías Baixas area, where the complex mesoclimates within this DO signify the many different sub-regions and variations between vintages and vineyards.

In Portugal, Alvarinho Vinho Verde wines are sometimes bottled with a certain amount of carbon dioxide, resulting in wines that have a light, sparkling sensation in the mouth. They were the first Portuguese wines to be widely labelled and recognised by their varietal name, and the growth in their popularity has supported a boom in availability and price. These wines are usually intended for early consumption.

The high quality of Albariño and an increased interest in Spanish grape varieties has seen the variety begin to find a home in various other parts of the world. It is planted in some of California's cooler areas, and Albariño-based wines are beginning to turn heads in New Zealand.

Albarin – also an aromatic white wine variety grown in the northwest of Spain – has been widely assumed to be the same as Albariño. DNA profiling carried out in 2010 showed these to be two quite distinct varieties.
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