Albariño or Savagnin Blanc?

This article first appeared in Epicurean, 2009
Tyson Stelzer

The identity of Australian Albariño was first called into question late last year, when French ampelographer (grape identification expert) Jean-Michel Boursiquot suspected that the vines appeared to be Savagnin Blanc, an obscure variety cultivated almost exclusively in the Jura in eastern France, where it produces the sherry-like vin jaune.

Subsequent DNA testing by the CSIRO has confirmed that most, if not all, Albariño planted in Australia is, in fact, Savagnin Blanc. This means that wines made from this fruit may no longer be labelled Albariño. There are an estimated dozen examples of the variety made in the country, and its recent popularity has sparked more growers to plant Albariño. Or, at least, what they thought was Albariño.

They are now left wondering what to do with it. Most have indicated that they will continue to produce the wine. They have resolved to band together with a united voice to ensure consistency in labelling and marketing. At the time of writing, producers from across Australia are meeting to decide on the way forward. It seems most likely that they will opt to label the wine simply as “Savagnin”. Whatever it’s called, the wine you’re familiar with will change in name only.