I have visited Spain on holiday a great many times, occasionally to Madrid, but mostly along the coast from Cadiz in the West to Barcelona in the East. I have sampled many wines, usually reds and of course the wines of Jerez (Sherry) which go so well with Jamon Iberico. Just be careful when you ask for a Manzanilla however in case you end up with a Chamomile tea!
My favourite red is the wine of Ribera del Duero we discovered a couple of Christmas’s ago in Murcia as we tucked into a couple of legs of all-day slow roasted mountain lamb on Christmas Day. It is always a pleasure to see the response of locals when you ask for something like this that isn’t the usual tourist selection of say, a substandard Rioja! It works wherever you are in the world provided you do a little pre travel research, and I have had some great (free) tasting experiences in Hungary, USA, South Africa, and France (many different regions).
My recent quest to become a member of the Wine Century Club however led me to do some research, followed by practical experimentation of course (!) into the white wines of Spain and I now can’t wait to visit that country again.
Although Spain is a massive wine producing country we can all understand a great deal by learning about the 4 Rs of Spanish White Wine representing four different regions, each growing different grapes you won’t find in France, Italy, Germany ……. and each with a different characteristic and “use”. In fact the development of white winemaking in these four regions by a younger generation of winemakers is probably the most exciting element of Spanish Wine today!
Rueda, Rioja, Ribeiro, Rias Baixas
These are the 4Rs of white wine in Spain, and they are the most commercial and widely available. Four different grapes are involved too; the Verdejo, Viura, Treixadura, Albariño, each favouring different terroir mostly in the northern part of Spain. The map below shows where you can find each of the 4Rs.
This is a region located about 90 minutes northwest of Madrid producing Spain’s top selling white wine from the Verdejo grape. That’s not because Verdejo delivers incredible quality, but because it’s fresh, accessible and fits the bill when you just want a zesty white wine. With characteristics similar to those of Sauvignon Blanc, Verdejo is Spain’s quintessential patio or tapas bar white wine. To borrow an old wine-industry expression: Just chill it and kill it.
Pulpito Rueda Verdeho 2016 (Tesco £6.50) “From a region well known for quality white wines made using the Verdejo grape, this wine has juicy citrus notes; with flavours of grapefruit as well as mango and pineapple. These flavours are combined with well-balanced acidity and a fresh lingering finish. Recommended with a variety of dishes including light starters and fish dishes.”
Finca Lallana Verdejo 2017 (The Wine Society £8.75) “A refreshingly peachy unoaked organic white from an excellent source in Rueda. Verdejo shares many of the characteristics of sauvignon blanc, being aromatic and crisp with an attractive grassy flavour and freshness.”
R2: Rias Baixas
This is a region located in the Northwest corner of the country in Galicia and producing the most consistently pleasing and steady Spanish white wine from the Albariño grape. Fresh, floral and easy to enjoy, Albariño is Spain’s top exported white, and for good reason. The wines are serious but uncomplicated, and they pair well with all types of seafood.
Exquisite Albariño 2017 (Aldi £6.29) “Dry, fresh and zesty, with aromas of peach skin, mountain herbs and apple blossom. Delicate white fruit flavours provide depth and texture, and together with acid minerality enables a crisp and lingering finish.”
Vino Taboexa 2016 (Waitrose £8.49) “Its light, citrussy flavours make it an excellent match for seafood as well as a great apéritif. Our Viña Taboexa Albariño is sourced from the quality-conscious La Val winery, managed by Fernando Bandeira García, in a warmer area of Rias Baixas, where the best Albariño grows. Taboexa is the name of the La Val plot where the grapes for our wine come from.”
This region is also in Galicia (not to be confused with Ribera del Duero) is the third region and where the predominant grape grown is the Treixadura.
Alberte Treixadura 2016 (The Wine Society £10.50) “Ribeiro, north-west of Galicia, produces mostly white wines from several local grapes; but by far the most important is treixadura. Unoaked and dry with fragrant peachy fruit and a hint of spice, this Alberte Treixadura is delicate, whistle clean and thoroughly delicious.”
Spain’s most famous wine region is best known for its production of red wines, but it also makes some good white wine, too. White Rioja, also called Rioja Blanco, is made from Viura grapes (also known as Macabeo). Sometimes blended with Tempranillo, the Viura contributes mild fruitiness, acidity, and some aroma to the blend.”
Navajas Blanco 2015 (The Wine Society £8.50) “A traditional white Rioja, with a rounded texture and nutty notes on the palate. The sweet-vanilla bouquet is thanks to careful oak-ageing which also gives surprising complexity of flavour at the price.”
Campo Viejo 2016 (Waitrose £6.99) “A refreshingly light and fruity white wine from Rioja. Perfect on its own or with chicken, fish and salad dishes. Campo Viejo’s dedication to Rioja winemaking (it’s been around since 1959), alongside the most advanced winemaking techniques available, allows them to create modern twists on traditional methods, delivering progressive styles of Rioja.”
Summary of The 4Rs of Spanish White Wine
Rías Baixas (Albariño)