Albarino is a white wine grape variety grown in Galicia (northwest Spain) and Moncao (northwest Portugal), where it is used to make varietal white wines. Albarino is actually the Galician name for the grape, with 'Albarin Blanco' an occasional synonym. In Portugal it is known as 'Alvarinho'.
The Albarino grape is the mainstay of wine production in the Rias Baixas DO, especially in the town of Cambados, representing 92% of its plantings, or approx 5,000 acres. History suggests that Burgundian monks from the Abbey of Cluny who came to Galicia at the invitation of Alfonso VII of Asturias in the 12th & 13th centuries brought the Albarino grape to Spain from France. This has led to the theory that this aromatic variety is related to Riesling or possibly Petit Manseng, but no genetic connection has been established. The most probable assumption is that Albarino is indigenous to Galicia.
It is also common in the Vinho Verde region of Portugal, but it is only authorized to be grown in Moncao. Rias Baixas DO was established on an experimental basis in 1986, Albarino began to emerge as a varietal, leading to the wines to be 'crafted for the palates of Europe, and beyond and for wine drinkers who wanted clean flavours and rich, ripe fruit' and led to wines completely different from those traditionally produced.
When grown in a vineyard, the vines need to be trained with large canopies to accommodate the 30 to 40 buds per vine that is typical. The wine produces highly aromatic white wines with fantastic acidity. The fruit is relatively hardy because of the thickness of its skin, a key contributor to its intense fragrance. Albarino yields a wine with a seductive perfume of citrus, grapefruit, lemon peel and white peach, with pronounced floral and almond notes. The grape's high extract carries these impressions onto a vivid palate which remains light, elegant and fresh due to the wine's elevated acidity. Albarino is very rarely given oak contact, but full malolactic fermentation is typically practiced.