Albariño: a new grape for New Zealand


There’s a bit of buzz about Albariño in New Zealand. But it’s early days yet: there are currently just 27 hectares in the whole country. Gisborne, where it was first planted, has 8.5 hectares, Hawke’s Bay has 6.9 hectares, and Marlborough has 3.9 hectares. But on this trip so far I’ve tried some good ones. It’s a variety that seems to hold on to its varietal character even when it’s transplanted across the world. As an example, Marlborough producer Nautilus has just 1 hectare, and produces 300 cases, most of which are sold at cellar door. ‘It’s a vigorous variety, and we grow it in stony soils,’ says viticulturist Michael Collins. ‘I grow it like Pinot Noir. It’s the only variety I leaf pluck, trying to drop the acidity,’ he says. Their vines were planted in 2014. ‘It’s the weirdest variety I have grown in 20 years of viticulture.’

Todd Stevens, of Neudorf, says that they have half a hectare. ‘We had a spare bit of land, and thought it was time to look at other varieties,’ he says. ‘It has very good Riesling-esque acidity. It’s bullet proof. Riesling melts on the vine but this fellow stays clean. It seems like it has quite thick skins.’

There are four clones available in New Zealand. One clone have come out of Spain, and three have come from Portugal (where it’s Alvarinho).

The first plantings were 2009 and Simon Nunns of Coopers Creek made the first wine in 2011. He says that the pH tends to be low, at 3.2 or 3.3 in the bottle. ‘The pressing component has a very high pH,’ says Nunns. ‘The difference between free run and pressing pH is one of the largest I’ve seen: pressings are 3.7-4. They have an enormous amount of flavour and character, but they have high phenolics and they age fast. You generally want to exclude the pressings if you want to make a wine that ages.’ Nunns adds, ‘Winemakers in New Zealand are quietly confident about where Albariño is heading.’

Coopers Creek SV Bell-Ringer Albariño 2015 Gisborne, New Zealand
Lovely stone-fruit aromatics with some pear and almond kernel notes. The palate is fresh, lively and fruity with nice grip and keen acidity. Very linear with a stony quality and a bright finish. 90/100

Nautilus Albariño 2016 Marlborough, New Zealand
Very fresh and linear with a bit of grape pith character. Bright with grapefruit and lemon notes, as well as some tangerine. High acidity. Juicy. 90/100

Waimea Estates Albariño 2016 Nelson, New Zealand
Lively, bright and very lemony with a bit of white peach and some pear notes. Some lemony brightness with a hint of marmalade and citrus pith. Distinctive. 91/100


Neudorf Moutere Albariño 2016 Nelson, New Zealand
Very stony and linear with high acidity. Bright and lemony with lovely focus. Juicy, bright and fresh with a tart, limey finish. Focused wine. 90/100


Astrolabe Vineyards Sleepers Vineyard Albariño 2016 Marlborough, New Zealand
This is from the Kekerengu Coast, with limestone soils. It’s very linear, bright and stony with pure lemony fruit. This is aromatic with nice minerality and brightness. 91/100

Aronui Single Vineyard Albariño 2015 Nelson, New Zealand
Very lively, bright and fresh with lemony fruit and good acidity. There’s a stony personality here with good focus and freshness. 91/100

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