I can’t believe it’s not Albariño!

albarino1Down under, thousands of liters of a certain white wine are resting in tanks right now. The only trouble is that nobody’s sure what to call it once it’s bottled.

In the 1980s, the Australian research institute CSIRO imported what they thought were Albariño vines from Spain. Eventually, market demand led to propagation of the vines; about 70 producers make it today.

But a couple of years ago Jean-Michel Boursiquot, a expert vine identifier (who knew?) from the University of Montpellier, spotted the vine thought to be Albariño and suggested that it was, in fact, the savagnin blanc grape often found in the Jura region of France (who in Australia will be the first to make it in an oxidative, vin juane style?). The Australian authorities confirmed this earlier this year, after the harvest but before bottling. Thus the producers can no longer call it Albariño and there’s no consensus on whether they should adopt the Savagnin Blanc labeling or even try Traminer, it’s genetic twin. But time is ticking as bottling time approaches.

Any thoughts? Here were some suggestions that came up in our seminar this afternoon:
* Albari-not
* The grape formerly known as Albariño (actually a symbol)
* I can’t believe it’s not Albariño! (Credit goes to Max Allen)

Further reading: “Albariño and Savagnin, Mencía and Jaen” [Jancisrobinson.com]

Related Posts with Thumbnails

18 Responses to “I can’t believe it’s not Albariño!”

  1. I vote for Nalbarino! As is, not albarino. My favorite albarino is Nora! Thanks for the Aussie update, your posts are always interesting!

  2. Tyler:

    Have you tasted any of this wine during your travels in Australia? Interesting story that reminds me of the Randall Graham episode when he smuggled in viognier to America that was propogate and planted all over the place. And it turned out it was really marsanne.

    Savignin is a cold weather grape and it would interesting to know what it tastes like in Australia. Where was it planted? Did they plant it in one of their colder climates?

  3. My vote:

    Klaatu Barada Vino
    (with the Vino part obscured by lots of coughing)

  4. I’ve carried Tscharke’s ‘Girl Talk’ for a few vintages. It certainly tastes and smells like Albarino, it pairs with oysters like one, I’ve never had a problem calling it one, and I sell it pretty often to my Albarino fans.

    I’ve only tasted Savagnin labeled as such…and it’s been done in the ‘typical’ French oxidized manner. Not everyone’s cup of tea, for sure.

    With these caveats in mind, I’d vote for Albarinot. I can pronounce it the same way, give the romantic backstory, discuss what my customers are actually having for dinner, and know that they’ll be back for another bottle of it, whatever it ‘really’ is.

  5. Albarinot gets my vote as well; I’d pronounce it as “Al-bar-e-NOT,” though, just to avoid confusion.

    Sort of reminiscent of how Carmenere was thought to be Merlot in Chile years ago, isn’t it? Surprising how easily mistaken grapes are…

  6. Possibly Albarinin or Albarinin Blanco? Although not nearly as cute as Albari-not, it is evocative of both grapes and yet connotes something new.

  7. Short version of the Australian albarino story:
    – The Spanish albarino vineyards include different albarino clones, plus two other white grapes, one of which is savagnin blanc (which has a lot of other names as well).
    – CSIRO sourced albarino clonal material from Spain, which then went into a bunch of source blocks for all or nearly all of the current Australian albarino plantings that have produced fruit
    – Genetic testing of the CSIRO ‘albarino’ material has confirmed it is identical to the ‘savagnin blanc’ material CSIRO also holds
    – This does not necessarily guarantee that all Australian albarino is savagnin blanc, but much of it will be
    – Regardless of what the vines are, the fruit has been good and it is a promising prospect across multiple regions (warm and cool)
    – Many examples of Australian ‘albarino’ share significant similarities with the flavour profiles of Spanish ‘albarino’ – across the ripeness spectrum
    – People with 2008 and 2009 material in bottle and/or tank are having to make serious decisions about labelling, naming, marketing etc
    – It’s not clear yet what the bigger growers/makers will do
    – People are testing the genetics of the actual vines in their vineyard, against albarino and savagnin blanc to confirm or otherwise what happened
    – There is a backlog for getting through these tests
    – It is very likely that authenticated albarino clonal material will be pushed into the vine market by at least Yalumba Nursery, if not other vinegrowers, to complement the ‘albarino’ material already here.
    – The original error in terms of vine identification is likely to be on the Spanish side, but could have been identified earlier here if initial comments were acted on.
    – The success of albarino/savagnin blanc in Australia so far has not been confined to just cool regions, with good examples coming out of warmer areas as well (good acids, bright fruit, low alcohols).
    – I intend to persist with ‘albarino’ at Quarry Hill (our first harvest was from the 2009 vintage) as it shows good promise in our cool climate, whatever it is called.

  8. Would it be so bad to call it savagnin blanc? Well, yes, but because of the inevitable confusion with another grape of a similar name.

    So, why not Traminer. Good wine can stand almost any name as long as it is not confusing.

    That is my vote–Traminer.

    Max Allen as usual deserves a gold star for his instantly brilliant humor.

  9. In Australia, “Traminer” is still a label caught up in old perceptions that wines like “traminer riesling” were always sweet, sickly, cloying and cheap (“moselle” has some similar meanings for some here).

    I don’t know how I’d go about trying to disentangle the sauvignon blanc / savagnin blanc confusion in the mind of the Australian consumer.

    My thinking at the moment is to name it independant of the variety, at least for a while.

  10. My suggestion:


    Reor is latin for to think or suppose.

  11. albarin-DOH! I think I see a Simpson’s plot on the horizon…..

  12. Idiot Savagnin.

  13. I think Albarinot is a totally appropriate monicker.
    I am a food/wine/travel writer based in Santiago, Chile and as I read this post, I immediately was reminded of the story of how Carmenere was “discovered” here in 1994 from cutting brought from France in the 19th century. In fact, it was also Jean-Michel Boursiquot that found this in the vineyards of Aquitania in the Maipo. Interesting post–thank you.
    Best, Liz Caskey


  14. Howzabout callin’ it Carmenere?

  15. Why not use: “Not (in tiny type) Albarino (in large type) but close (in tiny type)”

  16. How about “Faux Barino” in homage to Jean-Michel Boursiquot? Has a nice ring to it, yes?

  17. How come an Australian wine has the prefix “Alban”? In 2006 it was sugested that St. Alban should replace St George as the patron saint of England.

    So how about Sheilarinyo?

    If the grapes can/can’t be distinguished by winemakers or by most people in the glass then that is all that matters.

  18. In Jura, when producers make wine in a non-oxydative way with savagnin grapes, most of them call it Naturé, an old name of savagnin, to avoid confusion with oxydative savagnin while most of them produces both.

    The problem of th name also exist in France where Jura wines and savagnin are not well-known. The word Savagnin is too close to sauvignon and the word Traminer is too close to Gewurztraminer even if these wines are very different to savagnin.


Wine Maps

Recent Comments

Recent Posts

See my op-eds in the NYT
"Drink Outside the Box"
"Red, White, and Green"


Monthly Archives


Blog posts via email



Wine industry jobs


One of the “fresh voices taking wine journalism in new and important directions.” -World of Fine Wine

“His reporting over the past six months has had seismic consequences, which is a hell of an accomplishment for a blog.” -Forbes.com

"News of such activities, reported last month on a wine blog called Dr. Vino, have captivated wine enthusiasts and triggered a fierce online debate…" The Wall Street Journal

"...well-written, well-researched, calm and, dare we use the word, sober." -Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher, WSJ

jbf07James Beard Foundation awards

Saveur, best drinks blog, finalist 2012.

Winner, Best Wine Blog

One of the "seven best wine blogs." Food & Wine,

One of the three best wine blogs, Fast Company

See more media...


Wine books on Amazon: