“Spanish white wines really are made to be enjoyed under the sun with the people you love. They’re great for summer barbecues and cooking paella out on the wood fire with family and friends, days at the pool, picnics, summer nights hanging out on the porch — you name it,” says Katrin Naelapaa, the U.S. director of Wines From Spain.
Naelapaa adds, “There’s no shortage of life moments where a bottle of white Spanish wine can come in handy, and there’s certainly no lack of varieties that can make the moment feel even more complete.”
Options and more options
Spain is home to 69 wine regions, leading to a diversity of styles, from light and crisp, to rich and full-bodied. Even better, many are made from indigenous grapes unknown elsewhere.
“There are so many white wines that people can seek out. It’s easy for people to overlook great varieties if they aren’t familiar with the wine,” says Laura Sanz, winemaker at Bodegas Naia, located in the heart of Rueda, a Spanish Designation of Origin (D.O.) wine region known for growing the white grape, Verdejo.
So, where to start?
There’s no better introduction to Spain’s white grapes than Albariño, Spain’s top white wine export to the U.S. Fine examples can be found from $15 to $20, up to $80 and more.
Rías Baixas D.O., located within Galicia, just a stone’s throw from the Atlantic Ocean in the northwest corner of Spain, produces stellar examples. The climate, exposure to the water, sea-salty air, and varying soil types result in a wine that can be highly aromatic with a distinctive bright character. The wine is known for its acidity, saline minerality, lower alcohol, and fruit-forward nuances that can lean tropical and citrusy. Simple versions have a crisp appeal, but some of the best examples of Albariño can display a silky, mouth-filling texture.
“I drink a lot of Albariño, especially when I’m serving summer dishes and grilled fish,” says Naelapaa. “It’s such a bright and cheerful wine, and it goes extremely well with food.”
For those looking for a wine with a zesty profile, Naelapaa recommends Verdejo.
“It’s akin to a Sauvignon Blanc,” says Naelaepaa.
Produced primarily in Rueda, within the Duero River Valley, Verdejo can display a range of characteristics. The wines can be fruit-driven and intense, and medium to full-bodied with fine acidity. Verdejo typically makes for fresh, structured wines with good acidity and a pleasant bitterness thanks to anise nuances. Wines made from older vines tend to show an even greater concentration of flavor and depth.
“Verdejo has the potential to be a world-class white wine with a reputation for richness, herbal hints, and complexity,” says Sanz, noting that outstanding vintages have the aging potential.
These wines also come in pocket-pleasing price points.
“Verdejo is widely available in Spain, but it’s less available in the U.S. But it’s generally at a slightly better price point when you do find it. You can find really good Verdejo in the $10 range,” says Naelaepaa.
Godello is the Spanish white wine that Naelaepaa says is increasingly becoming “the darling of the sommelier community and serious wine drinkers” thanks to its aromatics, rich acidity, creamy characteristics, and long aging potential.
“If you like Chardonnay then maybe you will like a richer style of Godello. It’s going to be more like a French Chardonnay than a California Chardonnay, and it’s a wine that, I think, could eventually have a status as high as that of great whites from Burgundy because of how well it ages,” says Naelaepaa. “It’s a really fantastic grape.”
It hails from several regions including Valdeorras in central Galicia and Bierzo D.O., northwest of the province of León.
However, Naelaepaa notes that those who appreciate a more lush, full-body white wine with higher alcohol and stone fruit qualities should search for Viura, the white wine of Rioja, also known as Macabeo. After spending a few years in the bottle, wines made with Viura can show even greater complexity. The wine typically undergoes a longer maturation in barrels, which often imparts more flavor and textural nuances.
Don’t forget the Txakoli
In the northern Spain region of Basque Country, there is a style of wine that is becoming increasingly popular with drinkers, Txakoli, made from the Hondarrabi Zuri grape. Produced predominately in three regions within the area — Arabako Txakolina, Bizkaiko Txakolina, and Getariako Txakolina — Txakoli is known for its crunchy minerality and sizzling acidity. And bottles often display a touch of residual sugar balanced with tongue-tingling effervescence.
“The first hot weather day, I will open up my first bottle of Txakoli. It’s extremely crisp, bright, high in acid, and lower in alcohol. It is perfect for summertime,” says Naelaepaa.
In the past, Txakoli has been predominantly consumed in Spain, but within the last seven years, the country has seen an uptick in exports, according to Naelaepaa. Rosés made in the wine style have also gained attention with drinkers.
“Nowadays, Txakoli is in really high demand, and rightfully so. It’s a great wine with appetizers but really, it’s light enough to drink alone. Drink it at the beach, and serve it very chilled. Txakoli is incredibly refreshing,” says Naelaepaa.
Beat the heat
With summer steadily approaching, there’s no better time to start exploring the bounty of white wine options Spain can offer.
Bottles to try:
Bodegas Tarón Rioja Blanco 2020 (~$11)
Bodegas Tarón, located near the Obarenes Mountains, produces this Viura with grapes from different vineyards across four towns within Rioja, including Río Tirón, Tirgo, Villaseca and Sajazarra. A soft pale-yellow color with green highlights, this wine is bright with green apple character and aromas of stone fruits and florals. It features a round mouthfeel with a wave of acidity that lasts throughout the finish.
Bodegas Naia-Viña Sila 'Ducado de Altan' Rueda Verdejo 2020 (~$11)
This Verdejo is produced in the village La Seca, an area of Rueda where some of the oldest Verdejo vines can be found. Made by Bodegas Naia, founded in La Seca in 2002, the wine’s aroma brings to mind fresh-picked peaches and apricots. Complex stone fruit flavors evolve on the palate with fine acidity that balances all the fruit to make for one heck of an elegant porch pounder with depth.
Cantos Blancos Rueda Organic Verdejo 2021 (~$17)
Established in Pozaldez in northwest Spain, Cantos Blancos’ Verdejo is nearly clear with a green tint. But don’t mistake its light color for lacking flavor. This wine offers essences of crunchy white fruits and herbal characteristics — think fennel and anise. Fresh and rich on the palate, this high acid wine can easily stand up to any summer dish.
Camino Roca Altxerri Getariako Txakoli 2020 (~$19)
Named after the Altxerri Cave, a famous cave in Basque Country that’s home to some of the world’s oldest stone paintings in Europe, Roca Altxerri has produced bright and zippy Txakoli in the Getariako Txakolina D.O., along the coast of the Bay of Biscay in Northern Spain, since the 1990s. The wine is as dazzling as the nearby sea, with a gentle fizz and tantalizing acidity balanced with notes of melon, lemongrass, and spring flowers.
Bodegas Fillaboa Rias Baixas Albarino 2020 (~$19)
Bodegas Fillaboa’s Albariño is as fresh as fresh gets. Made in Rías Baixas, the wine is fruit-driven with nuances of ripe tropical fruits like pineapple and mango. Hints of citrus that come alive mid-palate keep things interesting, while the acidity leaves the wine lively and delectable through the lingering finish.