We have perceptions of places that are often incomplete, it is this removal of nuance that leads people to believe everyone in Texas is a gun-toting cowboy, that all citizens of Tokyo are supressed businessmen and Londoners are rude hipsters that spend 20 quid on a round of avocado toast and half a pint of 18% craft beer. Then you visit these places and you’re actually a bit disappointed that no Texan greets you by cocking a revolver, the people you meet in Japan have an excellent work/life balance and despite an unhealthy partiality for avocado, the Londoners you came across were perfectly lovely.
The same is true of wine. Most people have a monochromatic view of grape growing regions, certain that they only produce the wine they are most renowned for. If we were to mention Spanish wine, most wine drinkers’ minds would skip to big, full-bodied, oaky reds from Rioja. However, just like a Texan who is more than his NRA membership (he’s really into the work of Gustav Klimt and studies mandarin every other Tuesday), Spain is so much more than heavily oaked red wines. Along with outstanding fortified wine and incredible value sparkling, their white wine is of ever growing quality and well deserving of our attention. These are some of the Spanish regions making a name for their white wine.
In the north-west of Spain, in the region of Galicia, Rías Baixas almost certainly has the most noteworthy reputation for whites. Given the cool Atlantic breezes and persistent rainfall, it is unsurprising that 90% of vines in Rías Baixas are white. While there are several permitted grape varieties, the region’s reputation is almost entirely built on single varietal Albarinos. Here, they typically retain a piercing acidity, keeping the wine fresh, which is balanced by a fruit profile of citrus and ripe tropical fruit, with an undertone of white blossom. There is also increasing excitement for the Godello grape, while permitted in Rías Baixas, it is more frequently found from the Valdeorras region to the East.
“What, but you said Spain did more than just Rioja and this blog was about White Spanish wines?” We did indeed, glad you’re keeping up. What may surprise you is that there are some truly wonderful whites produced in Rioja. Typically made from Viura (called Macabeo in Cava), Malvasia and Garnacha Blanca. As with red Rioja, these wines can vary stylistically, largely determined by the amount of oak aging they have received -
- Joven: Wines are under 15 months old with no oak requirements
- Crianza: 12 months aging with 6 months in cask
- Reserva: 24 months aging with 6 months in cask
- Gran Reserva: 48 months aging with 6 months in cask
Young Rioja will be lean, crisp, with citrus notes of lemon zest, lemon curd, melon and a distinct herbal aromas, typically tarragon. These wines will often have a mineral character on the finish. Aged Rioja, however, will tend to have riper tropical aromas, namely pineapple as well as preserved lemon, with obvious oak and aged characters of vanilla, coconut and hazelnut.
Centred on the town of Rueda, in the province of Valladolid to the northwest of Madrid. It is known primarily for whites made from the Verdejo grape. Up until the 1980s, these wines were typically oxidative and not dissimilar to Fino sherry. Over the last 40 years, advancements in the vineyard and the winery have led these wines to be much more racy and crisp, they tend to be highly aromatic and fairly full-bodied. Rueda is typically a single varietal Verdejo however these wines can also be blended with Viura, and Sauvignon Blanc is having a growing impact in the region.