I have recently had 2 wine trips to Spain, more about those later, and I was astonished. We all tend to think of Spain as a red wine producing country, especially Castilla-y-León, where I was in March, and of course it does historically and culturally concentrate on red wine production. I also think it true to say that most Spaniards I know regard white wine as bit odd, I even know more than one restaurant in Spain that has NO white wines on its wine list at all. Anyway, what astonished me was, to a very large degree, the white wines were more enjoyable than the reds. I travelled widely in Old Castille and time after time the producers white wines outshone their reds by some considerable margin – for sheer enjoyment and drinkability. This was for different reasons at different places. Some producers just tried too hard with their reds, trying to make flashy and showy wines to achieve Parker points and Parker like returns, but left their whites as simple, honest and straightforward wines.
Other producers had similar results for more commendable reasons. Castilla-y-León is home to some quite rare Spanish red grapes that produce wines that do not always chime with modern tastes. Juan Garcia, Prieto Picudo and Mencia do not really have the broad appeal that Tempranillo does, so red wines made from these grapes are more challenging with more acidity and less body than we might seek. Whereas the white grape varieties used here are excellent producing a range of terrific wines. It is a shame therefore that there is no market for interesting Spanish white wines.
If you get a chance try a white made from Malvasia in D.O. Toro or D.O Arribes, they often include a little Verdejo for freshness.
The Verdejo grape is widely grown in the province of Castlila-y-León and produces really good results, it is indigenous and of very good quality making wines with some of the attributes of Sauvignon Blanc. The most famous examples come from D.O. Rueda and are widely available. One of the best is Palacio de Bornos Verdejo 2008 Rueda, which is in Waitrose.
Another lovely Spanish white grape to look out for is Godello. This is terrific, crisp and fresh with, at its best, a lovely texture and touches of richness. A very good example is: Crego e Monaguillo Godello 2007 D.O. Monterrei which is in Galicia (this was available from Majestic, so there might still be some around). Another good example, is from Castille: Castro Bergidum Godello 2008 D.O.Bierzo.
These are all varietal offerings, but remember there are terrific blends made in all these areas as well.
More predictable, but great value for money is the Asda own label Albariño from D.O. Rias Baixas in Galicia. It is fresh, crisp, slightly salty (in a good way) and extremely good for the modest price tag of £5.99.
Another little tip, Tesco Wine Club have a mixed 6 bottle selection of interesting Spanish wines at a very good price. The Rosé is from the unusual D.O. Arribes, is made from the Juan Garcia grape and is quite delicious with lots of rich red fruit, good clean refreshing acidity and plenty of body.
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