This week we are traveling to the final destinations on our virtual tour of Spain’s six major wine regions before heading home. We motor in our Spanish-produced Tauro Sport Coupe rental to the far northern coast and the sixth region, called Green Spain.
As we depart from the Duero River Valley region that we visited last week, we make one last stop – the Rueda region. From here we will travel first to the northeast corner of Green Spain and then traverse all the way to the western extremes.
In these areas, the dominant wines are white. So, the rest of our journey will focus on the delightful white wines from three areas: Rueda, Txakoli and Rias Baixas.
Rueda. Located northwest of Madrid and Segovia along the Duero River, this area has been producing various wines since the 11th century. Fast forward to the 20th century when Spanish vintners rediscovered the local Verdejo grape and began producing light, crisp wines. These wines have been compared to French Sancerre and New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Stylistically this is a valid comparison, but Ruedas are distinctive unto themselves; they have a bit more fruit – think Granny Smith apples – and don’t try to be complex, just refreshing. Examples of locally available wines: Basa ($13), ConClass ($11) and Naia ($12).
Leaving Rueda, we head into Green Spain. Its name is derived from its northern maritime exposures to the Atlantic Ocean and the Bay of Biscay and its mountainous terrain, including the Basque country near the Pyrenees. The inland mountains capture the moisture from the sea, creating the most rainfall in all of Spain. Hence the verdant hillsides and lush vegetation. Here two white grapes thrive in very distinct areas: Hondarribi Zuri in the Txakoli region and Albarino in the Rias Baixas region.
Txakoli. Located in the northeastern extreme of Green Spain, at the foot of the Pyrenees, this area had been forgotten by the rest of Spain and the wine-consuming world – until recently. It now seems to be caught up in the current frenzy in the United States for anything Spanish. This is a good thing.
The grape, Hondarribi Zuri, is a local indigenous grape. The wine is unique in that it has a certain frizzante characteristic, making it perfect for summer quaffing. It is high in acidity, yet low in alcohol; its aroma is lime-tangy, yet it has floral flavors. It will be a welcome alternative to your standard summer fare. It can be a bit difficult to find, but worth the search. Try Itsas Mendi ($17).
Rias Baixas. From Txakoli, we now travel along the northern coastline, peering up at the looming mountains, breathing in the salt air and soaking in the sea breezes. Our destination is the nearby town of Galicia and the home of the Albarino grape. This grape has reference points in Viognier (summer fruit bouquet of apricots) and Riesling (acidity and minerality).
This is not just another pretty face on the Spanish wine scene. It is complex and refined, unique in its aromas and crisp to an extreme; a perfect accompaniment to seafood. Try these offerings: Burgans ($12), Nora ($15) and Martin Codax ($13).
The idyllic atmosphere and great wine make Galicia a great locale for the final destination on our virtual tour of Spain. As we make our long trek back to Madrid for our flight to New York, we’re already reminiscing about our favorite cities and wines and dreaming about a return trip.
A dose of reality: Fares to Spain are very reasonable in the springtime, before the hordes of Trip Advisor zealots and the perennial rush of exchange students descend on the land. Plan an itinerary of culture, architecture, food and wine in the metropolitan centers and the tiny secluded villages. I trust my Spanish guide has titillated your travel urges and taste buds. Your questions and comments are always welcome.
Nick Antonaccio is a 40-year Pleasantville resident. For over 25 years he has conducted wine tastings and lectures. Nick is a member of the Wine Media Guild of wine writers. He also offers personalized wine tastings and wine travel services. Nick’s credo: continuous experimenting results in instinctive behavior. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @sharingwine.