This year’s summer was one of the hottest on record, which for many people represented the perfect excuse to drink refreshing white wines, such as Rieslings from Germany, Chardonnays from Burgundy, Chenin Blancs from the Loire, Sauvignon Blancs from New Zealand and Bordeaux, and many others.
But when it comes to Spanish wines, what region is the go-to place for the best whites?
In previous posts, we’ve touched on the scene happening in Galicia as the hotbed of the new Spanish white revolution, with a deep dive into Rias Baixas, as well as other appellations of note. We’ve also proposed a short list of up-and-coming white Spanish grapes destined to be the next success in export markets.
This time we’ll delve into six regions that are making some of the best whites in the country, as well as some of the most exciting bottlings in each. Let’s go!
Home of Albariño – Spain’s best-known white variety, Rias Baixas captured the attention of export markets in the early 2000s with a slew of fresh, high-acidity wines with aromas of citrus and peach, made for early consumption. Lately, many producers are experimenting with barrel fermentation, lees aging, and longer maturation times for a new version of the grape, with a fuller body and additional complexity.
The wine: Albamar Albariño
Pioneer Xurxo Alba grows his Albariños on granite soils, which are fermented and matured in stainless steel and oak foudres for an authentic expression of the Salnés Valley sub-zone. This wine is sharp and nicely balanced, perfect to drink young and with all that it takes to age a few years in bottle.
We’re going a bit further inland in Galicia to this historical zone where the wines are a blend of many varieties, primarily Treixadura and Loureira. Its vineyards border the Miño, Avia, and Arnoia rivers, which moderate the temperature and protect the vines from the excessive summer heat.
The wine: Vina Mein Blanco
Viña Mein is a blend of Treixadura, Loureira, Albariño, Godello, Torrontés, Lado, and Caíño Blanco from different plots, mostly on sandy granite soils. Complex floral, honeyed, and herbal aromas with an elegant palate of balsamic and spicy notes and a warmer fruit profile. A long, dry, stony finish. Viña Mein is now part of the Pago de Carraovejas group from Ribera del Duero.
Txakoli is one the most recent Spanish success stories in international markets, producing zesty, refreshing whites with aromas of citrus and white flowers, and a slight effervescence. They’re made from the local Hondarribi Zuri grape and traditionally poured from a height to aerate it. This is the perfect match for the local Basque seafood.
The wine: Txomin Etxaniz Txakoli
Txomin Etxaniz is a traditional Txakoli family winery in Getaria that can trace its roots to 1649. Fresh, fruit-driven, and slightly sparkling, with moderate alcohol and pronounced acidity balanced by about 5 grams of residual sugar. The palate is lightly spritzy, with a bittersweet touch in the finish.
The land of Sherry is living a revolution of its own, as many producers are going back to the past and rediscovering what was known as “vinos the pasto”, non-fortified whites that undergo biological aging under flor, many of them aged in old barrels previously used for finos, amontillados or olorosos.
The wine: Callejuela, Blanco de Hornillos
Brothers Pepe and Paco founded Callejuela in 1980 with their father, Francisco Blanco Martínez. They are 3rd generation mayetos (small-scale growers that work their own vineyards and produce their own wine) and almacenistas (folks who buy young base wines and age them for several years in a solera system before selling them to larger houses). They originally made their base wines, stored and aged them, and then sold them to larger bodegas around Sanlúcar.
This is a still wine made from palomino fino fermented in stainless steel with 12% alcohol. It is similar to sherry but without the same weight and concentration, yet still complex and compelling with plenty of briny, savory layers.
The oldest demarcated wine region in Castilla y Leon and the highest-selling white wine in Spain. Rueda is the home of Verdejo, which in the 1970s took the local market by storm with its crisp, fresh, fruit-driven white wines, following a similar stylistic model to New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Nowadays new styles of Verdejo: lees-aged, flor-aged, oaked, etc. are appearing in the market and expanding the appeal of Verdejo in Spain and beyond.
The wine: Cantalapiedra Viticultores, Cantayano
The Cantalapiedra family from Rueda is focused on organic viticulture. The Cantayano is partly fermented in oak and kept on its lees for one year before bottling. Ripe white peach, hay, dry straw, and yeasty, nutty aromas. On the palate, it has a medium body, crisp acidity, and the characteristic bitter almond finish of Verdejo.
Spain’s leading wine region, historically known for its nuanced, long-lived, Tempranillo-based reds, has seen a renaissance of white grape varieties, led by the resurgence of Viura and the growth of exciting secondary varieties like Maturana Blanca, Garnacha Blanca, and Tempranillo Blanco.
The wine: Abel Mendoza 5V.
The most interesting and complex of Mendoza’s portfolio, the 5V is a blend of five varieties (hence the name): Viura, Garnacha Blanca, Tempranillo Blanco, Malvasía, and Torrontés, all sourced from San Vicente de la Sonsierra in the Rioja Alta sub-zone. Intense and elegant aromatics, matured in barrel with the lees and bâtonnage for five months. Ideal pairing with aperitifs, fish, seafood, rice dishes, and white meats.
What region in your opinion has the best white wines in Spain?