Albariños and Verdejos have won international reputations as fine wines, and Ribeiros and Bierzos are on their way, but there are many, many more Spanish white wines out there to choose from. Many of these wines are almost completely unknown outside of Spain, and sometimes even outside of the regions that produce them. This usually means they can be bought for very low prices.
The wine in the picture above, for instance, is a Cabaña el Abad. It's made from 100% albillo--a traditional grape variety little known outside of Spain. It's from the D.O. of Tierra de Castilla y León. It's smooth, with low acidity, no fruit (a pleasant surprise), and a delicate perfume. The neighborhood wine bar we frequent in Madrid charges a little under two euros a glass for it. It was a perfect match for tapas of smoked fish.
I have not seen Cabaña de Abad in the U.S., but many other little-known white wines from Spain are becoming increasingly available here. Last summer we tried René Barbier, a bargain white from Catalunya. It's 40% Xarel-lo, 30% Macabeo, 30% Parellada. These are the grapes traditionally used in sparkling Cava. But don't worry: it doesn't taste like flat cava. Catalunya was making simple white wines from these grapes long before Cordoníu developed cava in the nineteenth century, so it is, in a way, a traditional wine. The taste, I admit, is more "mainstream": the flavor reminds you of flowers and even some fruit, but the fruit is very light.
The cost? Less than $5 a bottle.
Last year I wrote about Protocolo White, a Vino de la Tierra de Castilla. Like many whites from that D.O, it's made with a large percentage of arién. It's smooth, with low acidity, a simple note of green melon. Again, the fruit is discreet--in direct contrast to the heavy, overwhelming fruit-punch flavors that are so popular in the inexpensive white wine market now. The price? We find Protocolo for less than $8 in Orlando.
Just a few weeks ago in a local wine shop here in Central Florida we came across an inexpensive Spanish white with a silly name, "Beso de Vino." It's made from 100% Macabeo. This, again, is one of the three grapes traditionally used in sparkling cava. Macabeo is also a synonym for Viura--the grape usually used for white rioja.
Beso de Vino is from the D.O. of Cariñena, in Aragón--a region with a reputation for producing rough, heavy, strong wines. But Cariñenas are said to be improving, and it only cost $6 or something, so we gave it a shot.
It was completely different from any white rioja we have tried, even though it's made from the same grape. As you can see in the photo above it has a very deep gold color. This is by no means fine wine, but it was fun wine. It has some acidity, but not where you expect it. It has fruit, but once again the fruit is restrained by today's cheap white wine standards. Doing some research just now, I find that Robert Parker gives Beso de Vino 88 points, in case you care about such things.
Basically, Beso de Vino is a pleasant and unsual table wine, and when so many inexpensive (and often not so inexpensive) whites taste so much alike, it is a pleasure to find something a little different. Would I serve it with clams? No. But it would be perfect with many of the simple Spanish vegetarian dishes I write about on this blog--a summer squash paella, an ensaladilla rusa, or just a few roasted chestnuts.
Ana's uncle Rafael recommended that we try some of the new-style whites from Montilla-Moriles, a region known for sherry-type wines. When we were in Spain in May, we picked up a bottle of Viñaverde (not to be confused with the Portuguese Vinho Verde). From Córdoba, it's a blend of torrontés, moscatel, and verdejo. Although the label says "afrutado," it means fruity by Spanish standards or, better yet, cordobés standards, which is to say, this wine is light, clean, refreshing, and quite dry, with a taste more of minerals than fruit. This is another one that probably hasn't made it yet to the U.S. But keep an eye out. You never know. Want to guess how much a bottle of Viñaverde costs in Spain? Three euros and a half.
My advice, for what it's worth, is this: if you come across an inexpensive Spanish white wine you've never heard of, give it a try.