albarino

Resolving a classic confusion: Gruner vs Albarino

For many us who do blind tasting, one classic confusion is that between Gruner Veltliner and Albarino. Aromatically they can be similar and both have high acidity. But that’s where the similarities end. Here’s how to tell them apart.

Albarino

  • Has far more structure, both phenolic structure and acid structure

  • Its most pronounced characteristic is its grippy phenolics (among good examples) which are closer to tannins than almost any other white variety

  • Has a square acid structure. That is, the acid is felt like a brick wall when it hits the palate, then found around the edge of the palate, and then the wall comes back at the end. It’s a square in the mouth.

  • The acidity itself can have a green quality. Like the occasional Riesling, sometimes Albarino’s acidity itself can struggle for ripeness and take on a green quality.

  • The acidity can be more than just firm, it can be positively hard.

Gruner Veltliner

  • Has some phenolic texture (more the higher up the quality pyramid you go) but without the universal gripiness of Albarino.

  • Has the ‘rollercoaster’ acid structure, not the square acid structure. The rollercoaster consists in a peak of acidity upon entry, only for it to fall off immediately, and even become rather soft in the mid palate. But then, like a crescendo, it builds up again to the finish, where it is most pronounced and mouthwatering.

  • The acidity lacks the greenness of Albarino’s.

  • The acidity is tangy, not particularly hard or structuring.

Avoid using aromas and flavours as primary pieces of evidence, but as confirmatory evidence, in Albarino, look for orange blossom, orange cordial, lime and peach. In Gruner, lime, cress and dill are common, and in general, a more savoury flavour profile than Albarino.