Quick: what’s your go-to summer wine?
If you said sauvignon blanc, you’re not alone. With its crisp feel and bright, citrus flavors, it is the perfect summer sipper.
However, It might be time to broaden your horizons.
I’m thinking specifically of Spanish wines, thanks to a couple of samples sent to me from Vintae, a Spanish wine company that makes wine in fifteen of the country’s top wine regions, bottling them under several different labels.
Probably one reason you don’t think so much about Spanish wines is that they are usually made with grapes you don’t see every day. I mean, when is the last time you had a glass of crisp albariño?
So having these wines was a good kick in the pants that got me out of my rut.
I’ve long loved albariño wines. I tend to think of them as a good alternative to chardonnay, since the wines offer lots of rounded fruit flavors (think melon and peach.) Others, though, find the wine’s lean, minerally quality more akin to a pinot grigio or sauvignon blanc.
This difference of opinion is undoubtedly partially because Rias Baixas, the Spanish region that’s home to the grape, has five sub-zones. The styles from these areas range from crisp and fruit flavored to lean and earthy, though all show the classic flavors of white peach, apricot, pineapple and mango.
The Atlantis Albariño from Vintae didn’t disappoint. Two sips and I was sitting at a café, overlooking the Mediterranean. Other labels to look for include Burgans, Martin Codax, Bodegas La Val, Condes de Albarei and Bodegas y Vinedos Raul Perez.
But Spain isn’t the only game in town for this grape: winemakers in California also vinify albariño. Look for Bonny Doon and Artesa Abrente. Wherever it’s from, a good bottle can be had for $10 – $20.
The second wine Vintae sent was less familiar to me. It was made from the viura grape (also known as macabeo), which is one of the three main grapes in cava, Spain’s answer to bubbly.
While the bubbly is made near Barcelona, still versions of viura wines are crafted in Rioja, in the north central part of the country. This hot, dry region creates the perfect growing environment for this grape.
The wines it produces are generally aromatic and fresh. Many are crafted in a lighter style, with floral notes, but others are aged in oak, which gives them a honeyed, nutty quality.
The one I tried was from Hacienda Lopez de Haro, and it definitely had some earthier notes to it with a rustic feel. It was heavier on the palate, too, the result of a stint in oak. Other producers to try include Marques de Caderes, Herencia Remodo, Bodegas Artesa and Finca Antigua.
You can also find the grape in French wines, particularly those from the Languedoc-Roussillon and Pays d’Oc regions, where the grape is called as macabeo or maccabeu. Again, these aren’t expensive wines – no more than $20 a bottle, and you’ll be doing fine.
So as you head into this weekend and are reaching for the same bottle you always do, take a moment and grab one from Spain too. You just might find a new favorite!