Wine press – Affordable white wine from the Spanish region of La Rioja

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Spain’s Rioja region has a well-deserved reputation for producing beautiful and robust red wines. But what about white Rioja wines? They may not be as famous as the reds from La Rioja, but they certainly deserve to be recognized.

They are fresh, dry and refreshing wines.

So how long have the winegrowers been making white wines there?

Are there certain wine sub-regions in La Rioja? And what grapes are used to make these wines?

This week you can learn all about these wonderful white wines from one of Spain’s most famous wine regions. Hope you enjoy.

RECOMMENDED WINE THIS WEEK

2019 CVNE Monopole Rioja ($ 15 suggested retail price)

HISTORY OF WHITE WINES FROM LA RIOJA

Located in northeastern Spain near France and the Atlantic Ocean, La Rioja has been producing wine for over 3,000 years. The vast majority of the wine (91 percent) produced in La Rioja is red wine. The remaining 9 percent of Rioja wine is white wine.

Most of the white wines produced in Rioja are a blend of several different grape varieties. But some producers (including the one featured this week) make white wines using a particular grape variety from a particular vineyard.

RIOJA WINE REGIONS

Rioja wines come from three particular sub-regions of Rioja:

  • Rioja Alavesa – Wine sub-region located on the northern banks of the Ebro river in the Spanish province of Alava.
  • Rioja Alta – Sub-region located in the northern and westernmost part of La Rioja with many higher altitude vineyards.
  • Rioja Orientale – Formerly known as Rioja Baja, this low-lying wine sub-region is located in the eastern part of Rioja.

GRAPES USED TO MAKE THE WHITE WINES OF LA RIOJA Rioja winemakers mainly make white wines from four different types of grapes most often associated with this particular wine region:

  • White Grenache – Linked to its more famous red Garnacha grape, Garnacha Blanca grapes are often cultivated in northeastern Spain and the French Rhône region, where they are often blended with other grapes to produce dry white wines and crunchy.
  • Macabeo (also known as Viura) – Rioja’s most popular white grape, Macabeo makes up 69% of the white grapes grown in this region. You can also find Macabeo grapes in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France.
  • Malvasia – A widely cultivated white grape that can be found in many other places with Rioja, including many parts of Italy. This versatile grape is also sometimes used to make dessert wine and fortified wines similar to port.
  • Tempranillo Blanco – A relatively new white grape discovered in 1988 that is almost identical to the red grapes of Tempranillo. You will mainly only find Tempranillo Blanco grapes in La Rioja.

As explained above, most white Rioja wines are a blend of the four different grape varieties listed above. And like many other wine regions around the world, a small percentage of Rioja white wines are also made from Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc grapes.

WINE TASTING NOTES

2019 CVNE Monopoly Rioja

CVNE stands for Compania Vinicola del Norte de Espana, which translates to wine business in northern Spain. CVNE is the name of the wine producer responsible for this week’s exceptional white wine. Founded in 1879 in the Spanish village of Haro, CVNE produces a wide range of red and white wines from grapes grown in the winery’s 1,350 acres of vineyards as well as grapes grown in other nearby vineyards. Most of the winery’s vineyards are located in the Rioja Alta region, including the one used to produce this particular white wine.

This particular white wine uses Macebo (Viura) grapes from a particular vineyard – Villalba de Rioja, which is located almost 2,000 feet above sea level on a windswept hill. The grapes are then fermented in stainless steel tanks and aged for eight months in French oak barrels.

The result? An absolutely exceptional dry and crunchy white wine with hints of honeydew, sea salt and lemon zest. What I like about this subtle white wine is its distinct taste. It is not trying to be a Bourgogne blanc or a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. It’s her own unique and wonderful self. It’s austere but accessible, refreshing but reserved. And best of all, like many wines from Spain’s Rioja region, you don’t have to spend a fortune on such a tasty wine.

Cheers!

Press by Ken ross Appears on Masslive.com every Monday and in the weekend section of the Republican every Thursday.

(You will find older articles on “Wine Press” here.)

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