Wine Talk

Snooth User: spikedc

Spanish Whites

Posted by spikedc, Aug 1, 2012.

Been drinking  a lot more Spanish whites lately due to the fact that the weather has picked up here in the UK. I know I'm a little biased when it comes to Spanish wine but  I've noticed there has been a lot more choice.

Albarino ( Rias Baixas) is perhaps the most well known and widely available being Spains Signature white wine but Verdejo and Viura are becoming more popular. I admit that Verdejo is not as aromatic as Albarino being a more neutral taste but it has it's place, a great clean, crisp and refreshing thirst quencher on a hot day. Viura is very similar and they won't break the bank. They are also very food friendly.

At a recent tasting even got to try a Godello (which I had never heard of before) and was pleasantly surprised at how good it was


Reply by GregT, Aug 1, 2012.

Hi Spike.  Here's a repost of something I put up elsewhere a few years ago.

These days, Albariño is one of the better known white grapes, from Rias Baxias on the northwest coast of Spain, but moving slightly inland from the western coast, you get Godello from areas like Valdeorras and Bierzo and Ribeira Sacra. There is also Treixadura, probably more known from Portugal, Loureiro, and a little-known grape called Albarin, from neighboring Asturia to the east. It's a grape they swear isn't related to Albariño and doesn't really seem like it is either so who knows. Those areas are all in the north and west corner of Spain, right over Portugal. Rias Baxias is actually the westermost, on the Atlantic coast. Moving inward to the east, you get Ribiera Sacra, Valdeorras and then Bierzo, farthest in. Those whites tend to have tropical fruit, grapefruit and pineapple notes, with a really crisp finish, if they're made well.

Albariño can be different when it comes from more inland. From the coast it has a leaner texture and farther in it gets more tropical fruit.  We did a blind tasting of coastal Albariño vs Muscadet recently and they were surprisingly similar. If you ever see how they trellis the grapes up there, its different from anywhere else - they're overhead.

After phyloxera the growers planted a lot of Palomino, which is of course used in the south to make sherry, but that's of decreasing importance as these other grapes become better-known. Just as an aside, if you like Albariño, there is some made in Virginia of all places, which I guess makes some sense as it's also a coastal area.

More towards the center of Spain but still on the north coast, east of Galicia, is the Basque area Arabako Txakolina, where you find Txacolí. That region is quite a distance away from the western Galicia - it is pretty much directly north of Rioja. Those wines are really nice but they're kind of expensive for what they are. Usually really crisp and dry.

Verdejo is mostly found in Rueda, a good distance away. In fact, Rueda is even south of Toro and Ribera del Duero in a region called Castilla y Leon, where Verdejo makes up probably 80% of the plantings, since Rueda grows mostly white grapes and Vverdejo makes up most of those plantings. Rueda is interesting because even though it's in the middle of Spain and not near the coast, it's known for white grapes as opposed to red.

They also have a lot of Sauvignon Blanc in Rueda but most of it isn't really inspiring. They planted it because it was better-known but if it were up to me, they'd rip most of it out. There are a few really good ones but many of them have really strong bell pepper notes. Besides, the best producers also make excellent Verdejo, which can be outstanding and which on its own, is reminiscent of a good Sauvignon Blanc anyway, with grassy or grapefruit pith aromas and flavors. It's' rarely oaked but once in a while you find a great one that's also got a little oak.

If you like white grapes from Spain, you should also try Garnacha Blanca, which can be quite nice but unfortunately is often from Priorat where it's more expensive than really merited. Also viura, which is the white perhaps most commonly found in imports to the US, and Xarel-lo, which can make a really interesting crisp wine, with vague aromas of dried flowers and citrus. There is actually a lot of white wine made, including Chardonnay, Muscat, and Arien, which until just a few years ago was the world's most widely-planted grape. And you should try some white Tempranillo, which was a mutation recently found on a red Tempranillo vine and which has since been propagated.  It's like Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris - same grape but white.

Remember, you can't talk about Spain as an entity any more than you can talk about France as a single entity. They are both roughly 200,000 square miles, France slightly larger than Spain, but just as you don't have the same vintage conditions in Champagne as you do in Minervois, the same is true for Spain.

Reply by JonDerry, Aug 1, 2012.

Remember, you can't talk about Spain as an entity any more than you can talk about France as a single entity.

Very true, though most people outside of Spain or better yet, Europe, tend to associate Spain with Rioja. I haven't tried enough myself, but the one that I really liked was a 2008 CVNE Monopole white, the varietal was Macabeo.

Reply by Richard Foxall, Aug 1, 2012.

I agree with everything GregT said (I do think you can talk about Spain as an entity as a value play, except perhaps Priorat), except one thing:  I tried that white Tempranillo and I think it's a novelty not worth searching out until you have tried a whole lot of other grapes and are running out of ideas!  I mean, arneis, assyrtico, rkatsiteli, chasselas, furmint, feteasca regala (aka kiralyleanyka), pecorino, and on and on... I love red Tempranillo, but my advice is taste your way through those and more before you try white Tempranillo. Unless of course GregT just puts a bottle of it in front of you, as happened to me; then to refuse would be ungracious and pointless! ;-)

Reply by GregT, Aug 1, 2012.

Jon - it's quite good, made from Viura, which is the same grape of course.  Viura/Macabeo, Xarel-lo and Parellada are the grapes traditionally used for Cava, and they all make still wines, although I've had more interesting versions of the first 2 than the last.  And of course, now for cava they're also adding Chardonnay and making rosado cava with a little-known grape from Penedès called Trepat, as well as Pinot Noir and Monastrell. 

But of course one should explore, and Godello is a wonderful grape in some hands, less so in others. And there's very good Moscatel, both dry and sweet, that's readily available. People are even trying to make Arien into a decent wine with mixed success. The advantage is that most of these wines are pretty inexpensive. Disadvantage is that many are like Pinot Grigio - you just scratch your head and wonder.

Now that Fox has dissuaded everyone from trying the white Temp, its doom is forgone, but for those of you with hearts, I would suggest you try it anyway!  Not necessarily brilliant, but hey, they just started working with it! You're in on the ground floor so to speak!



Reply by Richard Foxall, Aug 2, 2012.

It's doom is foregone?  You give me too much credit, GT.  People might read these posts for laughs, but I wouldn't bet the future of a variety on my words. White temp is interesting--hey, evolution at work--and maybe there will be more exciting versions.  We all agreed, if I recall, that Conde de Valdemar didn't make the most distinctive wines in general.  So maybe I should hold my tongue until this mutation is in the hands of more exciting producers. Meanwhile, I still haven't had any rkatsiteli or chasselas, so I will focus my efforts there. Heck, I haven't had any airen, but it sounds totally missable.

Reply by spikedc, Aug 2, 2012.

Went out yesterday and bought a bottle of  'Valdesil Godello 2010 Valdeorras',  looking forward to trying it.

Might try and hunt out a few others mentioned above.

Reply by GregT, Aug 2, 2012.

Spike - let us know how you like it!

Fox - if you come to NY, you're in luck!  There is Rkatsiteli made right here in our fair state.  It's actually not too bad either.

Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Aug 2, 2012.

If anyone wants to try a really nice traditionally style white Rioja, check out the Blanco from Hermanos Pecina. Delicious stuff and reasonably priced.

Reply by Erica Landin, Aug 4, 2012.

Will check out the Hermanos Pecina when I get a chance, Greg. Otherwise the white, Spanish love-of-my-life is the Tondonia from Lopez de Heredia, followed by the Gravonia by the same producer. The older, the better. Fantastic old-school, lightly oxidized Rioja. Kills me how fantastic it is. Have dedicated more than one post to this producer, but here is the latest one where we tried 1973 Tondonia Blanco:

Reply by GregT, Aug 4, 2012.

And of course, those are not the only Rioja whites that age, they're only the most trendy these days. If you've ever tried some of the whites from Murrieta, they're equally delicious and less oxidized, as that's a signature trait of the Heredia wines.

When Cáceres came along in the 70s, they sort of changed the style of white Rioja to a less oaky and fresher style. CVNE is a little different, they've been making the Monopole since around WW1, and it's been done in oak as well as steel, but today the Monopole is a clean, fresh wine that's for early consumption. The Corona is something you're unlikely to find, but it's maybe the most interesting white from Rioja IMO.

These days there are also whites from the brilliant Basilio Izquierdo and Jesus Madrazo and I'm thinking those will be good for the long haul.

Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Aug 6, 2012.

Erica, The Pecina is not quite in the Lopez de Heredia style but close. I've only had a few vintages of it but will be cellaring some for those times I want a LdH but don't want to spend the $$$!


Reply by Etty Lewensztain, Aug 17, 2012.

The Ostatu Blanco from Rioja is also a fantastic example of white Rioja that's super fresh and versatile. No oak. very clean.

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