Luke Richardson is the sommelier at wine bar Le Di-Vin in Edinburgh. In his column for SLTN he shares his thoughts on all things wine-related and answers your questions about wine. If you have a question for Luke email it to firstname.lastname@example.org
This time around, I thought I would change it up a bit and, instead of talking about one grape variety around the world, focus on wines just from one country – in this instance, Spain.
Known for ages for its red wines, in recent years it has been Spain’s white wines that have stolen the show.
Around the turn of the millennium, Albariño sprung onto the wine scene here in the UK. Originating from Rias Baixas in Galicia in the far north west of Spain, Albariño suddenly seemed ubiquitous – every decent wine list had one!
Most often full of peach flavours, with sometimes a hint of spice in the tail, it was a perfect match with mixed seafood grills, and combinations of fish and meat – also very in vogue at the time (think cod and chorizo with red peppers and a few mussels, that type of thing). I doubt that anybody could have predicted how that one grape variety would lift the whole country’s white wine market!
Nowadays, Spain is producing some of the nicest, freshest, most reasonably priced (for their quality level) white wines of any country in Europe. The main four white varieties are Albariño, Viura, Godello and Verdejo.
Starting with Albariño, it varies enormously nowadays – from lighter, more zippy styles in the far north, often with a touch of salinity to the finish, to softer, more fleshy styles down by the river Minho, which separates Spain and Portugal. Essentially, the fresher styles to the north are better with simpler fish dishes, whilst the richer styles complement richer dishes better – especially those aforementioned combinations of meat and fish or mixed seafood grills. Expect to pay anywhere from £8 plus VAT to around £12.50 plus VAT for the best examples.
Moving on, Viura, best known as the mainstay of white Rioja, is a much leaner style of grape – more citrussy and crisp when unoaked, and richer and creamier when oaked. From the region around Barcelona, Viura starts at around £6 plus VAT and offers fresh citrus and stone fruit with a clean finish for the unoaked styles, and great drinking for the money. Examples over around £10 plus VAT are more likely to be oaked, so always good to ask or try before you buy!
Godello is one of my favourites, mainly coming from around the high plateau that Madrid is built upon. It makes very linear, crisp, often green flavoured wines – great with simple seafood or just for glugging in the sun.
If you add a bit more acidity and a hint of grassiness, then you roughly have the flavour profile of Verdejo – famous for wines from Rueda but there is a much more interesting style of Godello coming from Monterrei, just east of Rias Baixas, which is much more soft, textured and interesting. Both range from £7 to £10 plus VAT.
Next time, I’ll have a go at looking at Spain’s reds.
Until then, happy drinking!