When we talk about Spanish wines, it’s easy to think only of its reds – the flagship tempranillos of the Rioja region, the august wines of Ribera del Duero, the trendy new offerings from Priorato.
But we’re missing something good until we add Spanish whites to our mental wine lists. Spain makes fabulous whites, from the steely, floral albarino wines of the northeastern Galicia region to the crisp, high-plains verdejos of heartlands Rueda.
American sippers accustomed to our chardonnay and sauvignon blanc often know little of Spain’s whites. They’re worth learning about. They tend to be light, dry, crisp and mineral-scented, so they go as well with the same foods as the world’s sauvignon blancs.
Imported to America, they’re the light, crisp wines to sip all by themselves or with shellfish, fish, chicken, salads, rice, pasta and soft cheeses.
Oh, and they’re inexpensive – often under $15 a bottle.
In Spain, these wines have grown up for centuries with the country’s varied local cuisines, and it’s cliche but true that “what grows together goes together.”
Albarino, from Spain’s northwestern Galicia region, is a steely, floral white wine that goes well with seafood, from that cauldron-boiled octopus to its slithery garlic eels.
Verdejo, seen by many as Spain’s finest white grape, is similar to Italy’s pinot grigio, with the crisp minerality and citrus tang from the cold, high plains of Rueda, north of Madrid. It’s great with lechon asado, that area’s signature roast suckling pig.
Viura, light and crisp, is the grape of the white wines of Rioja, which is far better known for its reds. White riojas are best young, benefiting little from aging.
Parellada, crisp and citrusy, and garnacha blanca, with its herbal quality, are in the white wines of Bodegas Torres in Catalunya, outside Barcelona.
Cavas, the sparkling white wines by Segura Viudas, Freixenet and other bodegas in northeast Spain, are made of lemony macabeo (the grape called viura in the Rioja region), paralleda, and floral xarel-lo – more grapes little known to Americans.
So here’s a chance to try a whole new lexicon of white wine – without denting our wallets.
• 2012 Avelino Vegas “Montespina” Verdejo, Rueda, Spain: licorice aromas, rich tropical fruit flavors, long, fruity finish; $10.
• 2008 Prado Rey “Three Barricas” Oak-Fermented Verdejo, Rueda: hint of toasty oak, rich tropical fruit flavors, full body, almost viscous; $27.
• 2012 Bodegas Hermanos del Villar “Oro de Castilla” Verdejo, Rueda, Spain: aromas of fresh-cut grass and minerals, citrus flavors; $16.
• 2012 Bodegas Torres “Vina Sol,” Catalunya, Spain (parellada and garnacha blanca): crisp and light and dry, with flavors of ripe peaches and citrus zest; $8.
• 2013 Abadía de San Campio Albariño, Rías Baixas, Spain: lively and crisp, with intense aromas and flavors of green apples and licorice; $20.
• 2012 Bodegas Vinedos de Nieva Blanco Nieva Pie Franco Verdejo, Rueda: soft and dry, with white grapefruit and green apple flavors; $15.
• 2013 El Coto de Rioja “Rioja Blanco,” Rioja Alavesa, Spain (viura grape): aromas of white flowers, flavors of tart pears and citrus, light body; $11.
• Non-vintage Segura Viudas Heredad Reserva Brut Cava sparkling wine, Catalunya, Spain (50 percent macabeo, 40 percent parellada, 10 percent xarel-lo): myriad fine bubbles, full and rich, with ripe lime and spice aromas and flavor; $12.
Fred Tasker has retired from the Miami Herald but is still writing about wine. He can be reached at email@example.com.)