Step away from the chardonnay; put down the pinot… Aromatic albarino is emerging as an outstanding new varietal to New Zealand everyone should try
Every year the Air New Zealand Wine Awards play host to some stunning wines. Along with the well known sauvignons and syrahs, is the white aromatics category, a group of wines that has been slowly growing over the years, both in number and quality.
Nestled among the riesling and gewürtztraminer, you will find albarino. These zingy white grapes hail from Galicia, northern Spain, where the climate is cooler as well as quite windy and rainy. It’s no surprise then that Gisborne seemed a good geographical match.
First planted in 2009, Coopers Creek’s Bell Ringer was the inaugural release of New Zealand albarino. Well received back then, this wine has improved exponentially as wine makers get a handle on its personality and style. At the 2014 Air New Zealand Wine Awards they took home a Pure Elite Gold.
Villa Maria were also an early producer to get in on the action in Gisborne. Good sunshine hours help with the ripeness and the grapes grow thick skins to help them handle the rain. This actually contributes to the flavour profile; expect a sweetness with a hint of almonds, ripe peaches and an undertone of citrus. The coastal soils result in a slightly briny flavour in the wine. Matawhero Church House offer a small batch of albarino, known for its saltier edge. In contrast, Aronui produce an albarino out of their Nelson vineyard, with more full fruit characteristics.
Perfect with seafood and spicy Asian dishes, this new style of old European wine is changing the landscape for white aromatics in New Zealand.