Few wines could be further apart in range of color and flavor than albarino, a light zesty white, and alicante bouschet, a dark, thick-skinned red. In this alphebetical study of varietals, let's explore these two very different grapes.
Albarino is considered Spain's premium white wine grape. Grown almost exclusively in the Rias Baixas region of Spain (and a small portion of Portugal, where it is refered to as alvarinho), it is one of very few white wine grapes growing in a country dominated by reds. In it's native land, albarino is often grown on trellises as high as ten feet, due to its tendency to mildew and mold in a rainy region. It produces a dry white wine, with flavors ranging from light and citrusy to almost almond and honey-like.
It can be found in Northern California wine regions, perhaps most notably in Lodi, where Marcus Bokisch has helped to make it more well-known. Bokisch Vineyards bottles several albarinos under their own label, as well as selling their grapes to other area wineries.
On the other end of the spectrum is alicante bouschet, a thick-skinned, dark flesh, tannic red. Alicante bouschet is a hybrid, developed from yet another hybrid! It all began when amaron, once a widely planted varietal in France, was crossed with tienturier du cher, by Louis Bouschet, in an attempt to grow a darker fruit with a high yield. That cross became known as petit bouschet, and remained so until his son, Henri, decided to cross the petit bouschet his father created with grenache.
Alicante bouschet may have been most popular during the age of Prohibition, when it's thick skin made it an ideal candidate for travel by railcars to points east and into the hands of home winemakers. It's dark color made it popular not only because of its heartiness, but because it could easily be watered down without much notice. After the repeal of prohibition, it's popularity waned, being used mainly as a blending grape for the addition of color and tannin.
One interesting fact about alicante bouschet is that it is but one of a very few grapes that actually have red juice. Most every grape has clear juice when pressed, including red skinned varities like petite sirah and cabernet. Despite this distinction, it remains a blending grape, although in an ideal growing season and in the hands of the right winemaker, it can be a medal-winning wine, such as the 2006 Alicante Bouschet from Harmony Wynelands, in Lodi.
Whether your tastes in wine run red or white, these two are definite must-trys. Keep reading for more alphabetical forays into the world of wine!