If the thought of Spanish white wine conjures up images of huge concrete fermenters and enormous oak barrels producing lightly oxidized, eminently forgettable wines, then you are living in the past. Today, temperature-controlled stainless steel is the rule, and crisp, fresh, fruity whites are the result. Even with the quantum leap in quality, the tariff for these wines remains quite reasonable. While Albarino has gained almost cult status, good examples can still be had for under $15. And if you seek out more modest varieties, the price tag drops even lower. We tried an array of white wines from Spain, settling on these three as our top picks:
2005 Concertum, Rias Baixas, $12.99
This blend is dominated by Albarino, the most widely planted grape of the Rias Baixas region in northwest Spain. Ruby red grapefruit, soft lemon and ripe melon aromas are backed by floral honeysuckle and violet with just a nice touch of fresh grass. Crisp citrus fruit flavors marked by grapefruit and orange zest carry through on the palate. Good value for a wine of this quality.
2005 Licia, Rias Biaxas, $13.99
Butter-laced aromas with sweet and sour peach and lemon accents complemented by touches of vanilla, butterscotch and red bell pepper. Lightly tart peach fruit flavors dominate the palate that's fairly straightforward with a crisp, clean finish. This wine would make a refreshing patio sipper as the temperature begins to push toward summer. Excellent value for an Albarino.
2005 Marques de Caceres, Rioja, $7.99
Viura, the dominant variety of Rioja, is typically bottled as part of a blend. On its own, it can be a little thin and simple, but this 100 percent Viura from Caceres is anything but. Light straw and clover aromas mingle with bright citrus and a clean hit of mineral. Lively fresh peach and crisp apple flavors wrap around the silky texture, finishing with sweet grapefruit that lingers nicely. A consistent bargain year in and year out. :
This week's panel: Dave Faulk, Porterhouse Meats; David Kirkpatrick, Boise Co-op; Cindy Limber, Bardenay; Karen McMillin, Idaho Wine Merchant; Kevin Settles, Bardenay; Leslie Young, Spirit Distributing