Spain’s Aromatic Whites are Ideal for Fall Sipping

The Wine Girl

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Schneider's of Capitol Hill VP Elyse Genderson.

Spain is best known for bold reds made in a powerful, hedonistic drinking-style.  These are typically made from the Tempranillo grape, responsible for Spain’s most iconic and collectable wines from Ribera del Duero, Rioja, and Toro.  While these reds put Spain on the map and fetch high prices, the white wines are seeing major investment and lots of enthusiasm from young producers.  Complex, mineral-driven styles with bright aromatics are perfect for enjoying in the cooler autumn months.

 Galicia, known as “green Spain,” looks closer to Ireland with its lush green hillsides and maritime influences rather than the rest of Spain.  Verdant green valleys, dramatic coastline views, and fresh seafood are the staples.

The rich tradition of winemaking and the diverse microclimates creates ripe white wines with softness, finesse, and elegance.  Galicia has five major wine regions, Rías Baixas on the Atlantic coast, Ribeiro, Ribeira Sacra, Valdeorras, and Monterrei, which are all much smaller and further inland.

Albariño is the most well-known grape variety in Galicia, and it flourishes in Rías Baixas.  It is considered Spain’s quintessential white wine. The sea influence is prominent and the best wines display a briny, salty character backed by zippy acidity.  The granitic soils in Rías Baixas create wines with complex stony minerality.  The best examples show off lovely citrus, green apple, and tropical fruit character.

2020 Vinabade Albariño, Rías Baixas $14.99

Fresh, floral, and very fragrant.  Notes of nectarine, peach, and lemon zest on the nose and palate.  The round texture and creamy mouthfeel make this wine a tremendous value.

2019 Rectoral do Umia Albariño Rías Baixas $26.99

Elegant and lush, this wine is another great example of the complexity possible from Albariño.  Honeydew melon, apple blossom, and salinity.

2019 Altos de Cristimil Albariño White Label, Rías Baixas $19.99

Notes of tropical fruits like pineapple and peach are followed by hints of creamy marshmallow and toasted vanilla.  The viscous texture comes from several months spent on the lees.

Godello is a full-bodied white wine with a mineral element.  It is mostly grown in Valdeorras, in eastern Galicia, but it can also be found in other regions of eastern Galicia, including, Ribeira Sacra and Monterrei.  Godello, like Chardonnay, can express the place where it’s grown.  Frequent bâtonnage also creates a creamy, yeasty, and biscuity quality, a practice commonly used in the production of high-priced Chardonnays.

2019 Pilgrim Godello Bierzo $24.99

Apple, pear, and cantaloupe aromas with hints of bright lemon peel and good weight.  This is a complex, zippy, and fresh wine without being overly tart.

In the 1970s, due to poor economic conditions, winegrowers in Ribeiro abandoned the native grapes, Treixadura and Albariño, in a favor of higher-yielding varieties like, Palomino and Garnacha.

Ribeiro, however, has spent the last decade returning to it’s roots, replanting the native varietals, and contributing major investments in the vineyards.  Today, the wines are very impressive.  The region is located about an hour inland from Rías Baixas and it is split into three main sections: Miño, Arnoia, and Avia.  Ribeiro has a reputation for the fresh and complex Treixadura white grape planted to steep terraced, sun-drenched slopes.

Treixadura is fresh, juicy, and round, with fruit-driven notes of lemon and apple.  Warmer Mediterranean climate and Atlantic influence imparts Ribeiro wines with more structure and weight, along with fragrant floral aromas.  Commonly, it is blended with other grapes such as Albariño or Loureiro.  However, as a single varietal wine, it stands strong producing lovely and complex citrus flavors.

2019 Ama Vida Treixadura Ribeiro $16.99  

It shows off a delightfully complex, fresh and bright character with laser focused acidity.  Meyer lemon, orange blossom, and nectarine explode from the glass.

Castilla y León is famed for the reds of Ribera del Duero, but just recently, whites are now permitted to be labeled as Ribera del Duero without declassifying to the larger appellation.

2020 Valduero Blanco Albillo, Ribera del Duero $24.99

Bodegas Valduero made history with the first white wine from Ribera del Duero, made from pure Albillo Mayor grapes. Native yeasts provide complex character and express the personality of the terroir.  Delicate aromas and flavors of pineapple and grapefruit, peach, apricot, and citrus burst from the glass. It has high glycerol content, giving the wine a rich, roundness.

Rueda is a region in stark contrast to Ribera del Duero and Toro since only white wines are grown here from the Verdejo grape.  These wines were originally made an oxidative, fortified style until the 1970s when Marques de Riscal invested in stainless steel fermentation vessels and created a fresh, floral, aromatic wine.

2019 Balnea Verdejo Rueda $10.99

Citrus and herbal notes on the nose, and a creamy and delicate body. The grapes are completely hand harvested from 25+ year old, estate grown vines.

Visit Elyse Genderson at Schneider’s of Capitol Hill to discover wines you love.