Spain’s aromatic white wines are perfect for springtime.

By Ray Isle
April 29, 2020
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Last summer while I was visiting Barcelona, I made my way to the city’s best wine shop, Vila Viniteca, to say hello to its owner, Quim Vila. He was about to taste through a few wines (i.e., 20) in his office and suggested I sit in. The majority were white, and they were stunningly good: an eye-opening reminder that while Spain may be known best for its red wines, right now there’s tremendous energy and ambition to be found there in the white wine realm, too.

Greg DuPree

Albariño is Spain’s white wine success story, but for this column I wanted to concentrate on a few varieties now challenging its leadership role, particularly Garnacha Blanca and Godello. Garnacha Blanca, full-bodied but with bright acidity and a mix of citrus and stone-fruit flavors, grows mostly in Catalonia, in northeastern Spain. Godello, which at its best matches its richness with firm minerality, grows more in Galicia, on Spain’s western coast, in places such as Valdeorras, Bierzo, and Ribeira Sacra. And there are many others to delve into. Vintners in the Penedès, to the west of Barcelona, are using the local Xarel-lo variety for thrilling wines; the best Albariños are still among the finest seafood-friendly wines on the planet; and other varieties like Treixadura, Merseguera, and even Rioja’s classic Viura shouldn’t be ignored.

I left Vila’s shop weighed down, as always, by a few great bottles I hadn’t planned on buying, so beware: If you try these wines, the same thing may well happen to you, too.

Greg DuPree

2018 Mustiguillo Mestizaje Blanco ($15)

Merseguera may be a variety that no one in the U.S. (or even Spain) knows well, but based on this flinty, pear-inflected white from the area near Valencia, people ought to. The wine’s an absurdly good bargain, too.

2018 Herència Altés Benufet Garnatxa Blanca ($18)

Peach and melon flavors are lifted by intriguingly exotic herbal notes in this old-vine (very old—up to 100-plus years) white Grenache from Spain’s high-altitude Terra Alta region.

2018 Portal Garnatxa Blanca ($20)

The promise of Spain’s Terra Alta region is again evident in this lime-zesty, spicy white. Old vines, limestone soils, dry
farming, and no use of oak 
barrels all contribute to its elegant expressiveness.

2019 Parés Baltà Cosmic ($20)

The Xarel-lo grape is one of the three varieties used for Spain’s sparkling Cavas, but here, winemakers Maria Elena Jiménez and Marta Casas turn it into a crisp and very appealing table wine.

2018 Fillaboa Albariño ($20)

Fillaboa’s gorgeous Rías Baixas estate rolls down to the banks of the Tea and Miño rivers. Winemaker Isabel Salgado takes advantage of that cool, misty climate to fashion this stony, grapefruit-scented white.

2018 Godeval Valdeorras Godello ($21)

The name of this Galician region, Valdeorras, translates as “valley of gold.” Whether or not it was the original idea, that could now apply to the many lightly golden Godello wines—like this lemon-balmy one—made here.

2018 Valdesil Valdeorras Godello Sobre Lías ($23)

Valdesil owns the oldest Godello vineyards on earth, some dating back to 1885. With them, they make this fragrant white that is full of apricot, sweet citrus, and lightly earthy notes.

2018 Gaba Do Xil Valdeorras Godello ($23)

Winemaking star Telmo Rodríguez helms this project in Valdeorras. Together with young winemaker Jorge Saa, he makes this lightly peppery, poised white from organically farmed Godello grapes.

Greg DuPree

2018 Casal De Armán Eira Dos Mouros Ribeiro ($24)

Terraced vineyards high above the Avia River in the Galician Ribeiro region are the source for the Treixadura grapes that go into this generously textured white. Its flavors recall golden apples and ripe pears.

2018 Rafael Palacios Louro Valdeorras Godello ($25)

Rafael Palacios’ As Sortes white is probably the benchmark for great Godello, but it’s pricey. To get a sense of his skill, look for this more affordable—yet exquisitely balanced—bottling.

2017 Raúl Pérez Ultreia Bierzo Godello ($25)

Raúl Pérez’s top wines sell for around $80, but this bottling is no less impressive. Rich, full of pear and melon fruit, with a hint of pine-like herbs and white pepper, it’s a stellar wine for a modest price.

2018 Pazo Señorans Albariño ($25)

Flinty, citrusy complexity is the hallmark of this excellent Albariño, from one of the Rías Baixas region’s benchmark producers. Serve it as they do there, with a platter of raw oysters just pulled from the sea.

2017 Viña Mein Ribeiro ($26)

This Treixadura-predominant blend walks the perfect line between savory and fruity: It’s equally suggestive of stoniness and spice as it is of white peaches and apples straight from the orchard.

2018 Buil & Giné Joan Giné Blanc ($32)

This mostly Garnacha Blanca blend from the Priorat mingles creamy, sweet citrus notes (think tangerine) and melon flavors. It’s a big wine—most Priorat whites are—but the juicy acidity keeps it fresh.

2015 Marqués De Murrieta Capellanía Rioja Blanco ($30)

Deep gold in hue, this graceful white comes from one of the greatest names in Rioja. Ripe pears and almonds, a toasty oak note—it’s superb now and should also age well for years.

2017 Palacios Remondo Plácet De Valtomelloso Rioja Blanco ($45)

Hints of smoky oak play over the lime-accented acidity and green-apple flavors of this streamlined white Rioja from Alvaro Palacios, one of Spain’s greatest winemakers.