Joelle Thomson

Wine writer and award winning wine author

What I am drinking, reading and savouring each week


Tasting Spain in New Zealand

Tale of two Albarinos

From Gisborne to North Canterbury and nearly every wine region in between, Albarino has found a footing that's more favourable than the long list of other newcomers to New Zealand's vineyard scene. Think of Sangiovese, Gruner-Veltliner, Marsanne, Roussanne, Arneis, Nebbiolo and, rumour has it, even a little Vermentino. There is no shortage of willing takers who have tried to create their own little slice of Spain, Austria or Tuscany in ... (fill in the region of choice) by planting interesting Italian or other European varietals but most of them have remained a rarity, at best. Some of the grapes mentioned above just can't cut the mustard in the relatively cool, definitely maritime climate of New Zealand. 

Until now. 

Enter Albarino. This bright new star on the New Zealand wine horizon is flourishing everywhere it is planted. It is well suited to this country's climate became its traditional homeland in north west Spain (aka green Spain) shares uncannily close similarities with ours. High rainfall? Tick. High-ish humidity in certain areas? Tick. Lush soils? Tick. You name it, the region of Rias Baixas has much in common with New Zealand when it comes to climate, which is one of the key reasons that the easy to pronounce Albarino grape has taken to Kiwi vineyards like a duck to you know what. One of the other reasons is that it is easy to say whereas grape varieties such as Arneis and Gruner-Veltliner (or even the better known Gew├╝rztraminer and Riesling) have sent many running for the hills rather than trying to pronounce them. 

This week there's another new Albarino on the scene and it is another affordable wine because the best Albarinos so far in this country are straightforward wines that are fermented at cool temperatures and mostly in stainless steel. This makes them fast to produce and the wines so far have managed to retain their individuality and stylistic integrity with trademark salty, briny, lemon juice types of aromas in their flavour spectrum. 


2022 Yealands Estate Single Vineyard (Awatere Valley) Albarino RRP $22.99

This fresh and floral new Albarino comes from a cool vineyard close to the coast in the Awatere Valley, south of most vineyards in Marlborough. Flavours here are of citrus zest, white peach and a long vibrant finish of freshness. 

This wine is widely available. 


2022 Forrest Estate Albarino RRP $22.99

Deliciously, boldly, saline and refreshingly good. This is one of the best and certainly the Albarino with the longest track record in this country because winemaker Beth Forrest was the woman responsible for putting Albarino on the radar in this country. After working in Spain, Forrest fell for the fresh charms of this lively white Spanish grape variety and the rest is vinous history in the making. Bravo Beth.