This bright, refreshing white wine opens with aromas of ripe, white fruits and a touch of citrus, finishing with laser acidity and soft, salty flavors.
It’s fair to say that the new generation of wine producers on the Balearic’s largest island, Mallorca, is making an impact. Enter Tomeu Llabrés, working in self-described viticultura en miniatura, and his visionary work with the indigenous Montenegro grape at Ca’n Verdura Viticultores. In 2012 he founded his micro-winery in a former auto garage at the center of the ancient village of Binissalem, located in the north-central portion of Mallorca. Through a steadfast focus on the Montenegro grape, Tomeu has demonstrated that this ancient variety has incredible potential, creating some of the Balearic region’s most ground-breaking wines. In recent tastings, Montenegro has drawn flavor comparisons to another island grape native to Italy, Nerello Mascalese. Placing indigenous grapes in context can be tricky. Still, there certainly seems to be a similar renaissance of native varieties in Mallorca, and one can draw comparisons to what’s occurring in Sicily.
Tomeu Llabrés is a viticultor, practicing minimal intervention winemaking and low impact viticulture by leaving the cover crop during the cold season and encouraging biodiversity within his parcels and environment through polyculture. His wines are handmade, without additions, subtractions, or corrections. His primary objective with each cuvée is maximum respect and transparency for his terroir and culture, as well as for the customers who enjoy his wine.
Tomeu and Ca’n Verdura’s ancestral origins can be traced back at least six generations. His family cultivated Binissalem vineyards between "possessions" (large agricultural farms) in mixed-agriculture vineyards where grapes share space with other local crops such as apricot, almond, and olive trees. This type of polyculture is traditional to Mallorca and favored by Tomeu.
Following this tradition, Ca’n Verdura focuses on old-vine vineyards planted in the traditional en vaso (or goblet) vine training system, with reliance on the indigenous Montenegro and Callet for red wines, as well as Moll (a.k.a. Prensal Blanc), Mantonegro Cabellis, and Giró Ros for the white wines of Binissalem. Like other small projects on the island, international varieties are relied upon in small quantities for practical reasons in entry-level blends. Still, the future of plantings is clearly indigenous varieties. The soil of Binissalem is the excellent call vermell: a red, iron-rich clay, limestone soil with small to medium-sized galets. He works solely with old vineyards centered around the five historic villages of Binissalem.
White grapes are used in two famous types of Spanish wine, Sherry and Cava, but we will limit this discussion to still whites. Let’s begin with perhaps the best known and most highly regarded internationally, Albariño . Produced in the region of Rías Baixas, just above Portugal in northwestern Spain, Albariño typically sees no or little oak and is medium to medium-plus in body. Aroma and flavor notes often include citrus and peach, often with subtle floral notes and a suggestion of sea spray, giving the wine a zesty feel. Often bottled as a single varietal, Albariño is sometimes blended with other indigenous grapes like Loureira and Treixadura. Try one of these Spanish whites from Forjas del Salnes.
Let’s look at a few other Spanish white wines. Godello also hails from northwestern Spain and presents a profile of grapefruit, minerality and a slight smoky quality. Enjoy a bottle from Bodegas Avancia. The region of Rueda, northwest of Madrid, is home to Verdejo , which makes refreshing, un-oaked white wines whose herbal vibrancy recalls Sauvignon Blanc . Protos makes a tasty version. Up north in the Basque region, we find the wine called Txakoli (sometimes called Txakolina). Pronounced “sha-ko-LEE,” it’s made from a local grape called Hondurrabi Zuri and is light, fresh, citrusy, dry … and with razor sharp acidity that makes it a fantastic partner with local seafood and tapas. Ameztoi Gertariako is a good Spanish white wine producer to check out.
The Penedѐs region, best known for the oceans of delicious Cava it sends to the world, also produces still Spanish whites, sometimes from international varieties like Chardonnay , and often from the same grapes used for Cava. These include Parellada, Xarel-lo and Macabeo. Avaline produces a fine example of Penedes white. Finally, we visit the Rioja region. While it is historically and internationally famous for its reds, Rioja also produces fine Spanish white wines. These are usually based on Viura (the local name for Macabeo) and make good everyday sippers, although some aged versions can be stunningly complex. A good place to start is the white Rioja from Bodegas Muga.
As you can see, Spanish white wines offer a vast opportunity for exploration!