the spanish aquisition

Spanish White Wines

Spain, like much else of Europe, is undergoing a transformation of viticulture, winemaking and marketing. Many producers are focusing on the redemption of well-sited vineyards from high crop/low care regimes, and seeking to make expressive, perfumed, supple and fundamentally European wines – wines with the twin attractions of good concentration, fruit freshness and some generosity; along with savoury, elegant, food friendly palates. As there is much vine stock in Spain which has the basic attributes of good siting, vine age and high altitude, it is no surprise that many consider that the best modern approach is not to change what is being made, so much as to change how the material is being handled.

The main Spanish white varieties are:

Macabeo: Also called Viura, Macabeo is cultivated all over northern Spain and in southern areas licensed to make Cava. Macabeo typically shows soft florals and yellow-earthiness.

Pansa Blanca: A vigorous and productive variety, Pansa Blanca produces small, loose bunches produce crisp and fresh wines, with notes of stone fruit and fresh cream with high acidity. It's also known in some areas as Xarel.lo.

Godello: Principally grown in Valdeorras, it holds much promise. As the handling of the old vine, dry grown vineyards is modernised expect to see more good examples of this delicious, mid-weight, elegant variety.

Albariño: Native to the cool, damp province of North-Western Spain called Galicia. It's basic characteristics are pear/citrus/floral & spritely acid flavour/structure set.

Verdejo: Spain's most reliably interesting white variety. Verdejo is almost certainly a clonal variant of the Verdelho grape and shares it's pithy, somewhat glyceric palate and similar tropical fruit profile.

Castro Martín, D.O. Rías Baixas

Castro Martin is a small, dedicated high quality family concern, and use all estate grown fruit for this label. Their viticulture is immaculate, and hence the wine also! Albariño is fast becoming a famous new variety in international drinking - clearly one of the best seafood wines you can get, and somewhat the bargain.

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Zarate, D.O. Rías Baixas

They said it couldn't be done, but 40 year old Eulogio Pomares and his wife Rebecca Zarate are the first authentic organic growers in Rías Baixas. More importantly, their wines are delicious. There are three indigenous red varietals, harking back to the pre-phylloxera days of Rías Baixas as a predominantly red wine region! Albariño, it turns out, is largely a 20th century phenomenon.

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Valmiñor, D.O. Rías Baixas

A relative new-comer (established in 1997) Adegas Valmiñor is situated in the sub-region of 'o Rosal' within the D.O. Rias Baixas. Focussing on the varieties that thrive in this region, Albariño, Loureiro and Treixadura, Valminor produce a stylish range of wines rich with varietal character.

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Bodegas Eidosela, D.O. Rías Biaxas

Bodegas Eidosela
Founded in 2003, Bodegas Eidosela is the brainchild of a small group of enterprising, like-minded local growers dedicated to producing their own, quality Rías Baixas wines. Bodegas Eidosela is located in the sub-zone Condado de Tea and has a total of 45 hectares under vine - Albariño, Treixadura and Loureiro. Each vineyard plot is owned by a member of the Bodegas' co-operative and each owner-grower follows the production of the wine from the vineyard to the winery.
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Adegas Ladairo, D.O. Monterrei

alrededores

Ladairo is a 20 hectare property at around 400 metres altitude, with red soils slopes above the bodega and sand below closer to the river. The bodega is a lovely stable cold, humid cellar near the village of O Rosal de Monterrei, in Oimbra province. Owner-makers are Jose Luis Vaz Vileda and his wife Pepita Vaz Garcia. The wines are quiet and gentle, at ease with themselves. Don't swirl too much, let them come to you, wandering and changing as they open on air.

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Valmiñor, D.O. Monterrei

A relative new-comer (established in 1997) Adegas Valmiñor is situated in the sub-region of 'o Rosal' within the D.O. Rias Baixas. Focussing on the varieties that thrive in this region, Albariño, Loureiro and Treixadura, Valminor produce a stylish range of wines rich with varietal character.

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Luis Anxo, Viña de Martin, D.O. Ribeiro

Luis Anxo vineyards

Luis Anxo Rodriguez Vasquez calls his project Viña de Martin. The bodega is in the little village of Paixon, south of Ribadavia in the relatively dry Arnoia Valley, under the highest peak of the region, La Carniza. Here he has three hectares comprised of 30-odd small parcels scattered up the hill-slopes above his bodega (which sits on a rise above Rio Arnoia). These parcels may contain as few as 100 dry-grown bush-vines. The soil type is 'Sabrego' – granitic gravel sands. It's a very cold area and needs long sun exposure to attain proper ripening.

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Telmo Rodriguez, D.O. Valdeorras

Valdeorras. Image courtesy of ©Jason Orton
Godello wines, when vinified in controlled temperature conditions (18-20 C) during fermentation, combine robustness of structure with delicacy of expression. They are pale yellow in color, with steely, sometimes olivey tinges, and are glyceric in texture. The aromatic components are hints of green fruit, predominantly apples, with hints of apricot, peach, white flowers and honey. They are subtle, lusciously textured, well-structured wines, expansive on the palate, smooth in the mouth, slow and persistent with a long, satisfactorily dry-zesty finish, corresponding perfectly to the typical characteristics of European Atlantic wines.
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Bodegas Txomin Etxaniz, D.O. Getariako Txakolina

Txomin Etxaniz panorama

Always at the top of the list when it comes to quality Txakoli (pronounced: chak-o-lee) production, Txomin’s wines are typical of the fiercely Basque “Txakolina Getariako” style. The Etxaniz family estate is located in the heart of Getaria, west along the coast from San Sebasitian, and is historically one of the oldest, with vineyard plantings and the production of Txakoli since 1649. The Txueka Etxanix family have played an integral role in the modernisation, recognition and creation of the Denomination of Origin Getariako Txakolina in 1989.

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Telmo Rodriguez, D.O. Rueda

Telmo Rodriguez 'Basa' Verdejo

D.O. Rueda is a specialised white wine-only D.O. where Verdejo is the local star variety, accompanied by the international Sauvignon Blanc and a smattering of native Viura (Macabeo). 1.5 hours north-west of Madrid, Rueda is located on the high (700-800 metres), sandy soiled plateau of the Duero river. Climatically Continental with extreme temperatures in summer and winter, Rueda is also within reach of the Atlanic's cool/damp influence which provides frequent rain in autumn and spring.

Telmo Rodriguez' 'Basa' is produced from 40 year old vines at 750 metres altitude, and cropped at about 1kg/vine! Biological viticulture, and no additions in the winery - just perfectly balanced sugar/acid/tannin in the berry which is then carefully nurtured into balanced wine.

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Remelluri, D.O.Ca Rioja

Remelluri is a very special single estate nestled under the Sierra Cantabria mountain range at 600m altitude in the D.O. Rioja sub-region of Rioja Alavesa. It's the first single estate property of La Rioja - Remelluri was the first 'Chateau'-style estate to grow, make and bottle from a single estate.
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Viña Olabarri, D.O.Ca Rioja

Bodegas Vina Olabarri is a family-owned property, with a bodega in Haro, Rioja Alta. Founded in 1985 by Pablo Olabarri, Pablo’s son Luis Olabarri now manages the winery.

Vina Olabarri’s vineyards are located on the ‘Bikandi’ farm, near Logrono, between the villages of Fuenmayor and Navarette. The vineyards cover an area of 20 hectares, growing on terraces overlooking the Ebro River. The soil is a stony sandy loam over an alluvial substrate.  Some grapes are purchased from a similar local grower.

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Viña Real, D.O.C.a Rioja

While the Cune bodega in Haro represents CVNE's commitment to tradition, Viña Real exemplifies their embrace of modern technology. Viña Real wines are in a rounder, more fruit forward style, yet have the structure and ability to age for half a century. Viña Real started in the 1920s and old VR Gran Reservas are among Rioja's legendary wines.

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Marqués de Alella, D.O. Alella

Fifteen kilometres north of Barcelona, the D.O. Alella is one of Spain's smallest denominations of origin. Quality Cava producer, Parxet, owns a winery in Alella that works under the brand-name Marqués de Alella. Marqués de Alella is set apart from other Alella producers by their outstanding work with the Cava grape, Xarel.lo, known locally as Pansa Blanca.

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Cellars Capçanes, D.O. Montsant

Capcanes

Capçanes (pronounced Cap-sar-ness) is in DO Montsant, which surrounds the more famous and more expensive DOQ Priorat. The village of Capçanes is in the south-eastern corner of the Comarca Priorat. Capçanes is, and isn't, a co-op winery. Capçanes is both the name of a small Montsant village, south-east of the region's main town, Falset, and also the name of its wine co-op. 190 hectares (pre-phylloxera there were 1,000 ha of Capçanes under vine) are controlled by 75 growers and represents about 10% of the DO's total production. About half is organic, with more vineyards converted to such each year. Yields are as little as 12 hl/ha on the centenary Garnacha vines, which account for 55% of the co-ops holdings, and another 20% is Samsó.

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Celler del Roure, D.O. Valencia

Celler del Roure

Apart from being lovely wines, the Celler Del Roure story is one of a return to history: this area has a 2400 year culture of winemaking from locally adapted varieties. Apart from the aberrant 20th century, 2300 years of this was a legacy of fermentation and ageing in amphorae. Pablo and Paco's bodega fonda (underground winery) was first excavated 300 years ago and houses 97 buried amphorae ranging from 600-2800 litres. Abandoned in the dark days of 1930s Spain, the Catalayuds are busy renovating this special cellar and its amphorae. Of the 97 ancient jars, 20 have been dug out, renovated and re-buried in the local agglomerado soil – a sand, limestone, chalk, clay mix.

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La Purisima, D.O. Yecla

La Purisima is a sort of 'post-modern' co-op, doing some really sensational 'estate-style' wines from the township of Yecla, which gives its name to the denominacion de origen, D.O. Yecla.

'Estio' in Catalan means summer, and this range of wines refelects that ideal. The wines are fresh, bright and easy to enjoy.

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Telmo Rodriguez, D.O. Sierras de Malaga

Telmo Rodriguez Malaga 002 - ©Jason Orton

The name Malaga is arguably the most important in Spain’s viticultural history; at stage Malaga was the most important vineyard area in Andalusia. Located between the snowy mountains of Granada and the Mediterranean, these green, fertile, slate-covered slopes produce some of the purest Muscats in the world. Moscatel is a ‘vid antica’, or ancient vine and is one of the few varieties (if not the only) which has never been genetically modified.

It was the history and endangered status of this southern Spanish treasure wine that drove Telmo and Pablo to launch their Malaga project. Starting with their two sweet wines, the pair have now followed with a dry Moscatel, the 'Mountain Blanco'.

Image courtesy of ©Jason Orton
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Sara i Rene, D.O. Montsant and Priorat

Generational change, anyone?
We are standing directly face-to-face with the future here.


Sara was the host of my very first vineyard and winery visits in Spain, many years ago. At the time, she was a young, energetic and very intelligent winemaker, just starting to stretch her wings. She was working under her father, Jose Luis Perez at Mas Martinet, one of the famous 'Priorat Five' who started the new wave Rebirth of Priorat Cool. But even in outright youth at the time, Sara had her head fully around what was, what had been, and possibly would be the future in Priorat and Montsant ... and she was already starting to work on her own break out projects. 15 years down the track, she runs Mas Martinet outright. And she has two beautifully realised solo projects well and truly up and about, owned and run in conjunction with her now husband Rene Barbier.

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Guimaro, D.O. Ribeira Sacra

Guimaro

North-west of Ourense in central Galicia, Ribeira Sacra centres around the ancient mountain fortress town of Monforte de Lemos. Defined by two significant rivers, the Miño and the Sil, Ribeira Sacra pretty much marks the beginning of red wine country in Spain. Here the granite soils of coastal Galicia starts to merge with the continental schist found more in Valdeorras and Bierzo. While there is some red wine made to the west and south in Ribeiro, Monterrei and Rias Baixas, Ribeira Sacra is where continental climatic factors allow red to take over from white.

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Serra i Barcelo, D.O. Terra Alta

Winemaker of the Serra-Barcelo family property in Montsant is Josep Serra. He is a fourth generation winemaker, his family having been based in Ribera del Ebre between Montsant and Terra Alta. As well as Garnatxa Tinto in DO Montsant, Josep makes Garnatxa Blanca in neighbouring DO Terra Alta.

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Can' Leandro, D.O. Valencia

Can' (pronounced cahn), or house, more-or-less indicates a small family farm. Leandro is the project of young winemaker Gabriel Sanchis, and is named for his grandfather. Back in the day, Leandro used to work with the local Merseguera and Bonicaire varieties, but as with so much else during the qualitative decline of the 20th century, interesting local varieties fell by the wayside. Gabriel  is bringing history back, saving the remnant old vineyards of indigenous varieties.

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Bodegas Forlong, Vino de la Tierra de Cadiz

Alejandro (Alex) Narváez and Rocío Áspera are Jerezanos aspiring to make organic and natural wines from grape varieties local to the region. It's a young project, conceived of in 2009 and producing its first bottles from the 2012 (first Tinto) and 2013 (first Blanco) harvests. Rocío graduated as a Master of Warm Climate Winemaking from Cadiz univesity. Alejandro is half-French, and previously worked as a winemaker at Smith-Haut-Lafite.

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