Guide to the 7 Main White Wine Grapes of Spain

There is little doubt that the best known and most widely exported wines of Spain tend to skew more red than white, however as savvy wine drinkers increasingly search out authentic flavours made from indigenous grapes the interest in the white wines of Spain is growing rapidly. While international varieties like Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay are finding homes in various parts of Spain, I believe that the overwhelming majority of the most exciting and delicious whites from the Iberian Peninsula are being made from these 7 varieties – the main white wines grapes of Spain.

Not only do these wines showcase centuries of expertise and wine culture, but they offer the outstanding balance and harmony on the palate that comes with growing the right grapes in the right places. It should come as no surprise that small coastal fishing villages are surrounded by vineyards planted grape varieties that match beautifully with seafood and fish – and as we progress inland, we find varieties that are picture perfect matches with classic Spanish dishes featuring pork and chicken.

Perhaps the most interesting part of exploring these indigenous varieties is when we look at the manner in which process, or winemaking, work to enhance the natural harmony of the grapes. We find varieties with explosive aromatics and bright acidity are left to speak for themselves, while milder and less aromatic varieties are subjected to processes which contribute and enhance flavours, like barrel aging, lees contact and the production of sparkling wines. Let’s pull back the curtain and take a look at the 7 main white wine grapes of Spain…


Albarino


thumb_411_galeria_large

WHERE IS IT GROWN?

The overwhelming majority of Albarino – a variety indigenous to Galicia – is grown in the Rias Baixas DO in northwestern Spain, with small bits also grown in Riberio, Lima, Valdeorras and Braga.

WHAT DOES IT TASTE LIKE?

Albarino grapes are generally used in the production of unoaked aromatic dry white wines. These wines offer bright acidity, complex minerality and a combination of citrus and stone fruit flavours and aromas – most notably lime, lemon, peach and apple. Good examples taste like a combination of Sauvignon Blanc + Riesling.

WHAT FOODS DOES IT GO WITH?

Albarino is a great variety to pair with richer and more flavourful fish and seafood dishes as well as grilled or roasted white meats like chicken, turkey or pork.


Godello


171223_104569846288205_5677020_o

WHERE IS IT GROWN?

Native to northwestern Spain virtually all of the Godello planted in Spain is grown in Valdeorras and Bierzo.

WHAT DOES IT TASTE LIKE?

Reminiscent of Chardonnay in some respects and is generally used in the production of dry white wines with some barrel treatment. Godello offers up an array of mild stone and tree fruit flavours like apple, pear and peach with good acidity and minerality. Well-made barrel aged Godello offers some of the best aging potential of any white wines made in Spain.

WHAT FOODS DOES IT GO WITH?

Godello is a great pairing with salmon, shrimp or scallops, and if subjected to more oak influence is also a great match for creamy pasta dishes and roast chicken.


Hondarribi Zuri


Ulacia_03

WHERE IS IT GROWN?

A native grape grown in Spain’s Basque Country, Hondarribi Zuri is the main variety used in the production of the coastal white wines of Txakoli.

WHAT DOES IT TASTE LIKE?

Mindful of Portugal’s Vinho Verde whites, in Txakoli the Hondarribi Zuri grape most commonly yields dry white wines with exceptional acidity, freshness and slight petillance (or sparkle/bubbles). These wines offer flavours of lime, gooseberry and kiwi.

WHAT FOODS DOES IT GO WITH?

One of the great seafood and fish wines of the world, this is a perfect pairing with oysters, white fish, hard cheeses and salty or deep-fried pintxos or tapas bites.


Perellada


1047975_707324385967933_1820508816_o

WHERE IS IT GROWN?

Perellada is best known and most widely grown for the production of Spain’s sparkling Cava wines, but is also grown in small quantities across Catalonia for the production of still white wines.

WHAT DOES IT TASTE LIKE?

A relatively mild grape often comprising the highest proportion in the blends used to make Cava. This grape depends on process (i.e. sparkling wines, lees treatment or barrel aging) to impart complexity and additional flavour, otherwise offering good balance between acidity and alcohol with mild melon, apple and pear flavours.

WHAT FOODS DOES IT GO WITH?

Perallada-based sparkling or still wines are best suited to richer and milder foods like terrine or pate, soft cheeses, or even mild seafood like scallops.


Verdejo


Irun_02

WHERE IS IT GROWN?

Originally native to North Africa this white grape is most widely planted in Rueda as well as Castilla y Leon.

WHAT DOES IT TASTE LIKE?

Verdejo is generally used in the production of dry white wines and is most commonly unoaked. The resulting wines usually have very good acidity and freshness, bright citrus flavours of grapefruit and lime, and are often used in combination with Sauvignon Blanc to produce refreshing dry whites in Rueda.

WHAT FOODS DOES IT GO WITH?

Verdejo has the weight and body, when well made, to pair with more flavourful and robust foods like pork or chicken and does very well with Mexican and South American spices and flavours.


Viura


j_OZi_s86Upt60HFpTC-uL2W3irBPD2CJO2RZdEGVOg,5OJCGvxnJkUzfgk_vRezP05MmUu6x3swptxsnqwuXfA,AOz91ogLDS4hDCZ_hD_X4bZAGlY7lJUs-SPWnVl0WUI,oCgWDqRFdrOKMqFlunzzpQtieN_9aXxk

WHERE IS IT GROWN?

Viura (aka Macabeo) is the principal white grape of the Rioja, also used in the production of Spain’s sparkling Cava wines and planted widely across many parts of northern, southern and central Spain.

WHAT DOES IT TASTE LIKE?

Viura showcases vastly different characteristics and flavours depending on where it’s grown and how it’s vinified. In Cava, this grape plays a roll somewhat similar to Pinot Noir in Champagne, contributing body, richness and earthy flavours to the sparkling wines. When used to produce dry table wines, it is often subjected to barrel aging – most notably in the Rioja. Here Viura produces some of the most age-worthy and complex white wines made anywhere in the world, with complex flavours of lemon, golden apple, flowers and earthy mineral notes.

WHAT FOODS DOES IT GO WITH?

Barrel aged Viura whites from the Rioja are a terrific match with a variety of pork dishes – from cured Jamon to oven-roasted pork shoulder – or risotto/paella featuring asparagus or artichokes.


Xarel-lo


1599813_707324572634581_1371625315_o

WHERE IS IT GROWN?

This grape is native to Catalonia and is most commonly used in the production of Spain’s sparkling Cava wines and is also used to produce still whites in various parts of Catalonia.

WHAT DOES IT TASTE LIKE?

Xarel-lo is most widely used in the production of Cava bringing a complex combination stone fruit like peach and nectarine, flowers and a distinctly mineral/stony note to the final blends. Xarel-lo is a celebrated variety in Cava, usually reserved for use in the top prestige bottlings. More recently, Xarel-lo has become an emerging grape used in the production of dry white wines, both barrel aged and unoaked.

WHAT FOODS DOES IT GO WITH?

Dry table wines produced from Xarel-lo are ideal matches for lighter dishes including salads, lighter pastas, white fish and soft mild cheeses.

Andrew A. Hanna / Winetrader.ca

Guide to the 7 Main White Wine Grapes of Spain


[ TAGS: ]

#White Wine #Grape Varieties #Spain #Wine 101


More about Andrew Hanna

Pulling corks and pushing cases as a third generation wine importer in Ontario, Canada selling fine wines and spirits produced by families - not factories. Get the full story at winetrader.ca

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.