Spanish Whites – six great examples
Spain’s enormous wealth of native grape varieties, terroirs, and winegrowers means that it’s one of the most exciting countries for wine diversity, interest and value. This article covers six dry white wines chosen from the hundreds available at the annual Wines From Spain 2021 event. Furthermore, Spanish whites have emerged from the shadow of their red counterparts over the past couple of decades and so deserve equal billing.
Due to the pandemic, Wines From Spain 2021 was a virtual event this year*. Hence this article has six carefully chosen samples to showcase Spanish dry white wines. There are no sweet, fortified or sparkling wines included. These six are world-class, come strongly recommended, and are available in the UK. Any of them will bring enormous pleasure – without wrecking your bank balance.
There is, of course, a companion piece to this one, imaginatively called Spanish Reds – six great examples.
Below are those six Spanish whites, with an interactive clickable map to show their locations.
Spanish Whites – the six examples
Bodega de Txomín Etxaníz, Txakolí Blanco, DO Getariako Txakolina, 2020. 11%
Grape Varieties: 85% Honderrabi Zuri and 15% Honderrabi Belza
Background: Txomin Extaniz is in Getaria, the oldest producer in the region (founded 1649), on Spain’s north coast. Vinification is in stainless steel tanks.
Tasting Note: Regular readers may have met this producer and wine before, recommended in my previous article on Txakolí here. Almost water-white with a faint petillance which adds an attractive spritz. There’s moderate alcohol and tremendous refreshment value from bracing acidity. White flower-scented, a bone-dry palate shows big green cooking apples. Finally, zesty lemon and pear appear, undercut with a mineral streak. It’s Basque brilliance, a classic Txakolí perfect with crab, anchovies or pintxos (Basque Tapas). Serve well chilled.
Importer: Gonzales Byass.
UK availability: Oxford Wine Co, £16.75
Gallina de Piel, “Ikigall”, DO Penedès, 2020. 12%
Grape Varieties: 85% Xarel-lo, 10% Malvasia de Sitges, 5% Moscato de Alejandria
Background: Gallina de Piel is an organic producer near Barçelona. Owner David Seijas was the Head Sommelier at El Bulli, a legendary restaurant often considered the world’s best. Meanwhile, Ikigall uses Xarel-lo for freshness and texture, Malvasia’s for extra body, and a splash of Moscato contributes floral perfumes.
Tasting Note: A light yellow-gold, with orange blossom and fennel scents. The weighty palate shows apple, pear and citrus fruits. This elegant, balanced wine also has a long saline finish. Especially good with Spring Rolls and fried fish, but this blend works well with a wide range of food.
Importer: Liberty Wines.
UK availability: Vinvm, £13.50
Rafael Palacios, “Louro do Bolo”, Godello, DO Valdeorras, 2019. 14%
Grape Variety: Godello
Background: Valdeorras in Galicia is the homeland of the fashionable Godello grape, which was once nearly extinct. Rafael Palacios (the younger brother of Alvaro Palacios in Priorat) is a great Spanish white winemaker. He helped rescue Godello and establish it on the international wine scene. Louro isn’t his top Godello cuvée but represents fantastic value. Made from small parcels of old Godello vines farmed organically at high altitude, it ferments in old 3,500-litre French oak foudres and then matures on the lees for four months.
Tasting Note: Yellow-gold colour, the nose shows almonds and wildflowers. A powerful, weighty wine, but the balance is perfect, so the alcoholic power isn’t noticeable. Lipsmacking acidity, with citrus and “stone fruit” stones. Pleasing broad and slightly oily texture before a long mineral finish. White Burgundy lovers will go a bundle on this. Drink it with white roast meats, or try it with a green risotto (with either asparagus, peas or courgette).
Importer: Liberty Wines.
UK availability: widely available, including Lay & Wheeler, £18.28
Bodegas Lagar de Pintos, Albariño, DO Rias Baixas, 2018. 13.5%
Grape Variety: Albariño
Background: Sticking with Galicia, Rias Baixas is where the now-famous Albariño grape rules. This example is from the Val do Salnés subzone (where Albarino usually appears as a single-variety wine), made by Lagar de Pintos. Their seven plots of Albariño are organic. These are vinified separately with indigenous yeasts in stainless steel and aged on the lees for eight months before blending and bottling. The secondary, malolactic fermentation is blocked to retain zingy acidity.
Tasting Note: A greenish-gold with lemon and grapefruit on the nose. The palate shows grapefruit and Granny Smith’s apples, with a creamy texture balanced by fresh acidity. The long finish offers something reminiscent of cobnuts. An outstanding wine, an ideal partner for fish and seafood. Brilliant with John Dory (aka San Martiño in Spain).
Importer: Liberty Wines.
UK availability: Lay & Wheeler, £16.48
Herència Altés, Benufet, DO Terra Alta, 2019. 14%
Grape Variety: Garnacha Blanca
Background: To the highlands of southern Catalonia for the DO Terra Alta, which has ideal conditions for Garnacha Blanca. Herència Altés combines old vines farmed organically with state-of-the-art solar-powered winery and is one of the region’s best producers. Benufet is made entirely from the free-run juice of White Grenache. Fermentation is in modern conical cement tanks with native yeasts, followed by eight months on the lees in those same vessels.
Tasting Note: Benufet has a delightful freshness and elegance. Indeed, it shows exceptional winemaking, a glinting golden colour with plenty of white flower aromas and hints of beeswax. The silken palate shows tropical fruits balanced with a stony mineral kick. Powerful enough to deserve your Christmas Turkey, versatile enough to go with a mid-week traybake.
Importer: Bancroft Wines.
UK availability: Vinvm, £15.50
Dominio do Bibei, “Lalume” DO Ribeira Sacra, 2017. 13.5%
Grape Variety: Treixadura
Background: Ribeira Sacra, the “sacred hillside” of Galicia, is where the red and white wines are becoming as beautiful as the scenery and as heroic as the viticulture. Treixadura (aka the Trajadura of Portugal) is a native white grape most frequently used as a blending partner because it can be low in acidity and high in alcohol. However, in the hands of Dominio do Bibei (one of the leaders in the Bibei sub-region), it makes this superb varietal wine where freshness and acidity are hallmarks. Fermentation uses indigenous yeasts and takes place in a mixture of vessels; 600 litre new and old barrels, 1,200 and 2,400-litre casks, ovoid concrete tanks and 2,000-litre stainless steel tanks. After blending, the wine matures on the lees in 12,000-litre stainless steel tanks for 10-12 months.
Tasting Note: A greenish-gold colour. Bright aromas of stone fruits, flowers, and wild green herbs. The wine’s broad creamy texture meets fresh acidity and rare intensity of flavour on the palate, leaving an impression of great precision on a long finish. Distinctive? You bet. Simply fabulous.
Importer: Liberty Wines.
UK availability: Exel Wines, £20.40
My huge thanks go to Wines From Spain, especially how they adapted a highlight of London’s trade tasting calendar to instead provide samples and information for a virtual tasting at home. Of course, these six Spanish whites only represent the tip of an enormous iceberg. However, if you’re looking to explore the white wines of Spain, these wines make an ideal place to start.
Follow that? There’s only one way – with the companion piece on six great Spanish red wines.
*Stop-Press announcement: there is now a post-lockdown event in London on June 22 and 23, 2021 – so seel these wines out!