A lot of us have become accustomed to drinking mostly, if not exclusively, red wines – and if you’re one of these people, it’s time to take a second look at white wines which goes deeper than the usual chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and pinot grigio. There’s so many more varieties to try, so if you think white wine is boring, think again.
Spain may be better known for its red wines, particularly Temparanillo-based wines from the Rioja region as well as Garnacha (aka Grenache) blends, but Spain produces a great deal of white wines as well, many of which are becoming more widely available abroad. They may not have the big, bold character of some of the Spanish reds you may be accustomed to, but their interplay of fresh flavors and bracing acidity have a charm which is entirely their own. Keep reading for an introduction to some of the best varieties of Spanish white wine out there; you might just find a new favorite.
Grown in the coastal Rias Baixas region of the country, Albarino may be the best known white wine from Spain at the moment. It’s not hard to see why it’s becoming popular. It’s pronounced citrus flavors and pleasant, refreshing dryness make it an easy wine to love. It pairs excellently with a wide variety of foods and makes an almost ideal wine for picnics and summer cookouts. Crisp and clean tasting, it works especially with spicy foods; if you’ve never had it before, imagine it as sauvignon blanc’s more refined cousin.
One of the most widely planted varieties of grape in the Rueda wine region of northwestern Spain, verdejo yields a subtle, but seductive wine. Verdejo greets your palate with lemon and lime flavors, then finishes with mineral and herbal notes including fennel and freshly mown grass, with plenty of acidity to give it enough backbone to work well with many different foods. As a rule of thumb, Verdejo works well with any dish that you might use citrus flavors in. However, Verdejo also has another side; this is a white wine which takes well to a little aging. An aged Verdejo softens even more, offering luscious pear notes along with a slightly less notable acidity.
Godello was once commonly grown in Galicia, but came close to becoming extinct at one point when many farmers replaced their Godello vines with higher yielding varieties. Fortunately, the 1970s and 1980s saw the grape slowly returning to prominence. Often compared to chardonnay, Godello is similar to chardonnay in one important respect: it is a grape which clearly expresses its terroir. This is a wine which can vary greatly from one vineyard to the next, one winemaker to the next and from one year to another. Godello is, if anything, always full of surprises and most certainly worth seeking out.
Viura may not be immediately familiar to most North American consumers, but that’s sure to change as more people have a chance to taste this refreshing, exceptionally easy drinking Spanish white from the Rioja region. It’s a crowd pleasing, citrus-forward wine with notes of pink grapefruit and tangerine along with a hint of floral and almond flavors. It offers just enough acidity to be interesting, but not so much as to be bracing and just enough subtle bitterness to give it an unforgettable personality. It’s an ideal wine for parties or for serving with light snacks, tapas-style.
Cava may be the best known Spanish white on this list and is made primarily from the Macabeu grape (also known as Viura when grown in Rioja), along with Paralleda and Xarelo, which give it acidity and floral and lush fruit notes respectively. Combined, the three grapes yield a well-balanced, flavorful sparkling wine which offers an excellent (and generally budget-friendly) alternative to French Champagne.