One of the Spanish native white grape trio that contributes to the blend used for Spain’s sparkling wine, Cava, is the grape Macabeo. One of Spain’s popular, and versatile, white grape varieties which has also found a home in Southern France. In the premium wine region of Rioja, a region better known for some of Spain’s best red wines, Macabeo is also known as Viura. It is in this region, with access to fruit from older vines, that the grape can produce some of its finest expressions.
A decade ago, I would have said that you would have almost needed an insider’s knowledge on where to buy a white Rioja as I found they were few and far between outside of Spain. And sometimes when you did find a white Rioja, they lacked interest or worse, they were out of condition. With the availability of investment for Spanish wine producers, the white wines of Rioja are shining bright.
Even better, being able to take advantage of listing varieties on the front label, it is past time for you to get to know this grape in all its guises. Whether aromatically pretty and fresh with fruity citrus and stonefruit touched with white spicy flowers, or a more spicy barrel fermented version with fleshy nuttiness that rounds out the palate.
Here are some to start with (unless stated, these wines are 100% Viura):
Bodegas Alvia Mileto Blanco 2015 Viura – Just two months in French and Hungarian oak has given this Viura plenty of spicy lees and added curves. Ripe grapefruit and peach fruit is scented with jasmine sitting amongst some creamy pastry. A drier style that has balance and soft, generous fruit along the length of the palate. Drink this one now to capture that prettiness. (£13.50)
Bodegas Beronia 2015 Viura – If you are a fan of Sherry, you will probably know the name Gonzalez Byass, and Bodegas Beronia is part of this winery group. There is, however, nothing at all Sherry-like in this wine. It is fresh, has a beguiling personality of honeysuckle, citrus including some waxy peel and some fresh lively herbs. The fruit is right upfront, although it becomes leaner on the clean and long finish. The Beronia Viura makes a good aperitif, particularly on a warm sunny day. (£9.00)
Bodegas Muro Blanco 2015 Viura – A very intense citrus experience awaits you in the glass. More nutty and waxy aromatically, this Spanish white has ripely sweet orange and peach punch fruit that explodes on the palate. Crisp, generous and balanced, it does not require food but will certainly work well with a light meal. (£8.70)
Fincas de Azabache 2015 Fermentado en Barrica Blanco – Fermentation in barrel gives a spicy almond nougat creaminess to the pretty spicy flowers and ripe fruit that swings from apple to almost tropical ripeness. It also adds full bodied richness complete with a little oiliness on the finish that does not detract any enjoyment, rather it extends the length. A long, spicy white that offers a voluptuous choice for dinner. (£9.95)
Bodegas Luis Canas Blanco Fermentado en Barrica 2015 (85% Viura / 15% Malvasia) – Rich cream aromas sit a top lightly ripe tropical fruit, honeyed lemon and, in turn, compliments some spicy cinnamon. This is a satisfyingly, full bodied wine that is not only intense on the nose but also the mouth. In addition to adding cream and spice characters, the well judged oak regime rounds out the palate while letting the fruit shine. Enjoy with or without food, whatever the season. (£7.90)