Do you fancy tasting something really different in 2015? White has not traditionally been the colour of Spanish wine but things have been gradually changing over the last 10-15 years. Nowadays, Spain not only boasts about high quality whites, but also about their diversity. If you’re already familiar with Verdejo, Albariño, Godello, white Riojas or Garnacha Blanca and are keen to expose your palate to new flavours, we suggest five Spanish whites that stand out either by their novelty, exotic grapes or style. None of them are widely available (although we include tips to find them), but can be highly inspiring and are worth seeking out.
La Encina del Inglés 2013 Blanco, La Melonera (Sierras del Málaga). The first vintage of this white wine offers originality at an affordable price. It is a blend of Muscat of Alexandria (80%), Pedro Ximénez (10%) and Doradilla (10%), a local grape currently being recovered at La Melonera estate and able to provide unusual levels of acidity at this southernmost area of Spain. Other dry muscats made in the region tend to be rather light, but La Encina del Inglés shows good structure thanks to the Pedro Ximenez in the blend with Doradilla adding a lively and fresh spark. It is delicate rather than intense on the nose, displaying Muscat-like distinctive aromas. This is a medium-bodied savoury white with good aromatics and briny notes that add length and personality. Outstanding stuff below €7. Only 13,000 bottles have been produced on this first vintage but production is expected to reach 30,000 bottles on 2014. The wine is part of a project launched by Perelada in Ronda (Málaga) and the name is a tribute to the English travellers who went across Andalusia in the 19th century.
Táganan Parcela Amogoje 2013 Blanco, Envínate (Canarias). Envínate (Wine Yourself) is the brainchild of four young winemakers who met while studying oenology in Elche (Alicante): Laura Ramos from Murcia, Roberto Santana from the Canary Islands, Galician Alfonso Torrente and Jose Ángel Marchante from Albacete. Such geographic dispersion allows them to make wine in the Canary Islands, Galicia, Extremadura and Almansa as well as consulting to wineries in some of those areas. This extremely rare and scarce (600 bottles) white is sold as a humble table wine and comes from a very old vineyard located in the northern part of the island of Tenerife. The range of varieties grown is so diverse (White Listán, Malvasia, Albillo Criollo, Marmajuelo, Gual, Forastera ...) that the winemakers call it the ‘Jurassic plot’. Vinified by softly pressing whole bunches, the wine is then fermented in 500-litre barrels where it remains until bottling. It may not be Jurassic, but it’s really singular. An exotic nose with aromas that are not easy to identify (grape skins, hay, green olives) is followed by a distinctive mineral palate that finishes with wild salty notes. This is an explosive combination of grapes, volcanic soils and environmentally-friendly viticulture.
A Pita Cega 2013 Blanco, Lagar de Sabariz (Ourense). This white is produced at an estate located in the vicinity of Ribadavia, in the northwestern region of Galicia, which lies just outside the Ribeiro appellation. The area is high and cool, although summers can be really hot —this vine growing area is the furthest inland in Galicia. The project is run biodynamically and follows the model of a farm with sheep, geese and hens helping out with vineyard duties. Bottles don’t have labels; instead they are hand-drawn individually by winemaker and owner Pilar Higuero. A blend of Treixadura and Albariño, the cold 2013 vintage offers citrus and white fruit aromas with light floral notes and fennel. There is considerable tension on the palate aided by a generous dose of vibrant acidity, again dominated by citrus notes, but the wines is tasty and well-defined. It does not conform to the sweet fruit pattern found in the area and shows great potential for developing over the next three-four years. A Pita Cega means “the blind hen” in Galician after a popular and traditional Spanish game depicted by Goya in one of his paintings. Production is limited to 5,000 bottles.
Find this wine in Europe at El Sumiller (€31.25).
Phinca Durmiente 2011 Blanco, DSG Vineyards (Salamanca). This skin-fermented wine is one of the most original labels by Rioja Alavesa grower David Sampedro who currently produces wine in Navarra, Rías Baixas, Utiel-Requena (together with sommelier Bruno Murciano) and Sierra de Francia in Salamanca, where Phinca Durmiente comes from. It is made with the rare native grape Verdejo Serrano or Rufete Blanco, which is not a mutation of the Rufete Tinto widely grown in the region. The grape is currently in the process of being approved so the wine cannot carry the DOP Sierra de Salamanca label and is sold as table wine instead. Despite this intricate background, the wine is well worth trying; although oak is slightly present on the nose, it displays macerated grapes and baked apple aromas together with floral notes. It provides good structure on the palate with citrus notes and remarkable length; it will be interesting to see how it develops over the next two-three years. It’s still early to define the profile of this grape variety but inquisitive palates will undoubtedly enjoy this new discovery.
Clos d’Agon 2012 Blanco, Catalunya. Although this wine has been in the market for some time, it is still widely unknown in Spain due mainly to its scarcity (only 2,000 bottles are produced) and the unusual place it comes from. Vineyards and facilities are located in Calonge (Costa Brava), in the protected natural area of Les Gavarres. Owned by a group of Swiss friends and wine lovers, Silvio Denz (Château Faugères) and renowned winemaker Peter Sisseck (Dominio de Pingus) consults for the wines. The blend is highly atypical in Spain as only Rhône varieties are used (40% Roussanne, 40% Viognier and 20% Marssane) while wine making and aging combines wood and stainless steel tanks. This is a wine made to develop, something of a pending issue with Spanish wines which seems to start being addressed by some high quality producers. I loved the complex and delicate nose with lavender, herbal infusion and floral aromas, and the consistency on the palate where it felt really young, still showing a floral character, lanolin hints and honeyed notes on the finish.
2012 vintage will be released in about two months. Find it at Vila Viniteca. Current prices for 2011 at around €35.