The Albariño grape is indigenous to the northwestern corner of the Iberian peninsula, straddling the border between modern-day Portugal and Spain. It has been cultivated since the times of the ancient Romans, but was primarily used in blends alongside other grapes throughout its early history. After a series of phylloxera outbreaks in the late 19th century, however, Albariño emerged as a rising star in the region during subsequent replanting.
Albariño became best known as the primary grape of the Rias Baixas winemaking region in Galicia, Spain, where it comprises around 90 percent of grapes grown there. In Portugal, the main Albariño region is known as Minho, with the wine most commonly referred to as Vinho Verde and involves a blend of other grapes. Vinho Verde has more of an “old world” flavor palate and is widely grown in Minho, whereas varietal Albariño is generally grown in Galicia. Albariño was also exported to other areas such as California, Argentina, and Chile, but very few plantings exist there compared to the grape’s native home.
While Albariño blends still prevailed through most of the 20th century, the Spanish government’s establishment of the Rias Baixas Denominación de Origen (DO) in 1986 caused winemakers to begin producing varietal Albariño wines. Due to this relatively recent rise in popularity, Albariño has been crafted primarily with contemporary European and American tastes in mind, resulting in a modern taste and refreshing light body.