It’s one of those grapes to have a love affair with. Grown mostly in Galicia in the cooler north west of Spain, it’s the most gorgeous of grapes.
Drinking Albariño was one of the best things about spending a couple of months in Spain back in 2016. It’s alcohol content isn’t high, it’s light and fresh and perfect paired with Spanish food, especially seafood (Oh, for the baked Turbot in San Sebastian).
Back in Australia growers imported what they thought was this grape but turned out to be Savagnin blanc (not to be confused with sauvignon blanc), traminer or gewurztraminer.
One winemaker, Crittenden on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula made a good stab of using these grapes. And it became one of my go-to wines back in Australia.
Hence the search for similar here in South Africa.
Albariño or Alvarinho?
The grape is also known, as Alvarinho in Portugal, popular in the north west of the country towards the Spanish border.
The surprise is that there isn’t more Albariño in South Africa given the culinary and grape influence of Portugal in the region – you’ll find a lot of Portuguese red grapes varieties here.
It’s been down to Newton Johnson Family Vineyards to pioneer Albariño here, planting a small vineyard in Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley (near Hermanus) and releasing its first vintage in 2015.
Newton Johnson Albariño 2017
Wine: Newton Johnson Albariño 2017
Region: Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley
Price: About R175. Available online.
The surprise with the Newton Johnson Albariño is the higher alcohol content than is typical and that it is less oily and textural on the palate than Spanish varieties.
It’s a very fresh wine with floral notes and hints of white nectarine and a lemon acidity that makes it ideal with a shitload of Mozambique prawns.
It’s perfect for a warm Johannesburg summer night on the braai.
New to South Africa, I’m exploring the diversity of wine in the country at one bottle a week. English by birth, I’ve spent the last 20 years in Australia writing about food and drink for daily newspapers, glossy magazines and my blog, founded in 2005.
I now live in Johannesburg and am educating myself on all the amazing, new, interesting and avant-garde wines available in this country.
Note: I endeavour to pay for all wines myself and I practice ethical blogging.
Also published on Medium.