Thursday, April 23, 2015

Iberian Whites

By Liza B. Zimmerman

The love has been a long time in coming for Spanish and Portuguese white grape varieties. The glamorous Tempranillo has long been the queen of Spanish reds and the Portuguese red indigenous varietals used for Port are finally getting the attention they deserve in non-fortified wines.

White grapes, from both countries--and there is quite a lot of cross over between varieties grown in both nations--can have great acidity, beautiful fruit flavors and pair divinely with lots of seafood and spicy dishes.

The Leading Lady
Albarino is unquestionably the top white in Spain. It goes into stone fruit-rich and steely whites that are particularly notable from the green, verdant north in Rías Baixas and Galicia. I have yet to meet a fish, or seafood stew, to which it doesn't do justice. Salmon and Asian-style marinades on tuna might be the only ocean's treasures that might not pair with it.

The same grape is found over the Portuguese border, directly across from Galicia in the far northern Minho region. So many styles of Albariño are produced in both countries that it is hard to generalize, but I often find the Portuguese versions to be a bit richer and creamer. Sometimes they also have slight notes of oxidation, as if the Rhône whites had whispered in their ears.

The Spanish region of Rueda's Verdejos are incredibly fresh and full of mineral notes. They are almost a regional-go-to-solution all in one with spicy food pairing solutions. Indian, Thai, Chinese and Vietnamese bring on the hot peppers, curries and chili sauces and these crisp whites will cool your palate right down.

Going Green
Some of Portugal's most delightful, easy-drink and affordable wines come from the country's Vinho Verde region. No, they are not actually green, but can have a green sheen and often a little fizz. These are generally a blend of Alvarinho--spelled with an H--Arinto, Loueiro and Trajadura. They are not easy to say but worth the tongue twister to drink. A handful of producers also making rosés from the region, but most of them tend to be too sweet for me.

As an aperitif white Port is also delicious. My first time in Lisbon I did a double-take when first offered one. I thought he was kidding, but it is indeed white, pretty off-dry and great on the rocks. It also makes a good spritzer to enjoy on a sunny afternoon.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza Zimmerman has been writing and consulting about wine and food for two decades. She is principal of the San Francisco-based Liza the Wine Chick wine writing, education and consulting firm. She has worked on staff and freelance at national magazines such as Wine Enthusiast, The Magazine of La Cucina Italiana, Wine Spectator, Where SF and the Examiner. She currently contributes to Cheers, Wine Business Monthly and the Examiner, among others.

Zimmerman focuses on demystifying wine and transforming it into a tool for business and networking for companies all over the country. Past clients include Genentech, Roche and IBM.

She has visited all the world’s major wine regions and is one of select few in the U.S. to hold the Diploma of Wine & Spirits (D.W.S.), the three-year precursor to the Master of Wine.

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