2019 Soalheiro Alvarinho
2019 Soalheiro Alvarinho This 2019 vintage is a wine that is all about soil. The wine is a conduit for the energy and minerality of stone. It feels cool and stony just like you would imagine coastal granite being. Chilled, barely ripe apricot, lime and grapefruit zest and wet river stones on the nose and the palate. As I said, this wine is about energy, the acidity is high and you might be tempted to use the adjective nervy but it is not, it is deep steadfast and focused. This wine has great length; it moves across your palate and yet it also persists. Delicious, penetrating, and thought provoking, I love this style of wine.
Albariño (Alvarinho) 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 Rias Baixas DO, where it makes crisp but often well-textured white wines with peach, citrus and mineral characters that pair perfectly with the local seafood.
The variety is often made into a lightly sparkling Vinho Verde wine in Portugal, which is commonly labeled varietally to distinguish it from the usual Louriero-based Vinho Verde blend. Here, the variety is known as Alvarinho. The variety is high in acidity, and can be produced as a light white wine or in a fuller style, with oak or lees aging 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 Albarino a perfect food wine.
Albarino 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, Albarino constitutes more than 90 percent of the grapes planted in the Rias 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 labeled and recognized 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, its ability to cope with maritime macroclimates, 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, including slopes on the sea-facing side of the Coastal Mountains in San Luis Opispo County, where over 50 acres of the state’s 20 of 120 hectares (50 of 300 acres) are found.
Climate change allows UK growers to start move away from weather-resistant hybrids to noble varieties. Albariño, at home on the Atlantic coast, is showing some early promise, and may get a decent share of any future plantings not devoted to Chardonnay and Pinot Noir for sparkling wine. Albariño also has a foothold in a number of New Zealand wine regions, in particular in Marlborough, Gisborne and Nelson. However few if any wineries produce it in great volume at this stage. As of 2020 there were less than 40 hectares (100 acres) in total with few blocks of more than a single hectare.