White Rioja. It’s like White Bordeaux or White Burgundy. I mean, we all know straight up what Rioja, Bordeaux or Burgundy is but ask for white, and the average joe might go…huh? Burgundy not so much, but when someone comes into the store asking for White Bordeaux or White Rioja, my heart goes pitter patter. YES! Someone who knows exactly what they want!
Many of us in #ItalianFWT have crossed over to discuss other regions of the world, and 2021 is a focus on the regions of Spain for #WorldWineTravel. Rioja is a great place to start, given that it’s one of the oldest regions and only one of two with the highest quality designation. I always say “God bless the Spaniards”, because they have done the ageing for us! In fact, it’s not unusual to see Rioja wines aged 10 years, or even more. Currently, I have a 2001 on the shelf at the store – that’s 20 years old and she’s drinking beautifully!
So what does White Rioja mean exactly? Viura is THE white grape of Rioja (also called Macabeo, when referenced to Cava, or other regions of Spain) and traditionally these wines were made in an oxidative style. Expose the wine to air and get all those toasted nutty notes. My fellow writer Lauren from The Swirling Dervish, has already given us a great review of white Rioja and talked specifically about Lopez de Heredia. She actually OPENED her wines to taste, and I have to say, I was living vicariously through her tasting notes and pairings! I am not yet ready to open mine.
The WHITE of Lopez de Heredia are far more of a cult wine than the reds. That being said, the reds are outstanding, and I have several available for sale at the store where I work. The whites however, are twice as much in price as the reds, and in my store, you can’t buy a bottle of white without buying at least two of the reds as well. If I didn’t do that, I’d end up with 48 bottles of red and no white on the shelves! That’s the way it is. I named my price and they will sell. These are whites that are capable of great ageing, and their rosé is even more cultish. I’ve got that too, and it will wait patiently in my wine fridge for the right time and the right people to open it with. (Perhaps this summer or fall when COVID is a distant memory? One can only hope…) As you can see by the photo, the age of these wines range from 10-12 years. Sorry, I just can’t bring myself to open them just yet.
What I DID open was pretty spectacular though. The Bodegas de la Marques Valseranno in Rioja Alavesa is a family owned winery, now owned by the 4th generation, and currently being run by the 5th generation. Vines are an average age of 30 years and in their 65 hectares of estate land (along with 15 ha of vineyards they purchase from), tempranillo, garnacha, mazuelo(carignan), graciano and viura are cultivated. The natural underground cellars, which are over 200 years old, are home to the barrels for ageing.
Their viura (macabeo) is grown in the poorest soils, yet at the highest altitudes with great ventilation and the best sun exposure. Interestingly, the back of the bottle tells me that this wine is 95% Viura with 5% Malvasia, yet the website says they’ve added Chardonnay for extra body and texture. With that said, I don’t know the percantage. Indeed, there is texture, but I feel it’s due to the batonnage stirrings weekly. It’s also been fermented in new Allier oak, which would of course, add to the all around flavour of this wine. On the nose, I found honeydew melon, Meyer lemon, sponge toffee and hints of vanilla cookie. On the palate, more melon, honeycomb, yellow apple, medium+ acidity, with a nice full body mouth feel (from the lees ageing no doubt), and a slightly oxidative finish that was really quite long. Super impressive! I am a big fan of white wine in general (It never gets the respect it deserves…). Give me a well made, good, ageable white wine and I’m happy! After a long week of work, I didn’t want to cook, so I ordered in for myself and Mr. Joy of Wine. Shawarma was the perfect match to this wine with all the salty, sweet, flavourful combos of the tabouli, chicken, pickled veggies and pita. There was enough body in this wine to make it work!
Rioja anyone? Want to see what my fellow writers are talking about? Check out all things Rioja with these posts on #worldwinetravel!
- Andrea at The Quirky Cork shares “Marqués de Cáceres Crianza with Chorizo Sweet Potato Pockets”
- Wendy at A Day in the Life on the Farm shares “Mexican Ham Soup and a Spanish Rioja Wine”
- Camilla at Culinary Adventures with Camilla shares “Catalan Coques + La Rioja Alta Viña Arana Rioja Gran Reserva 2014”
- Steve at Children of the Grape shares “Tasting Rioja With Aging Eyes”
- Allison and Chris at Advinetures share “Rioja: The Confluence of Tradition & Modernity”
- Robin at Crushed Grape Chronicles shares “Viura – There is more to Rioja than Tempranillo”
- David at Cooking Chat shares “White Bean Stew with Sausage and a Rioja”
- Lynn at Savor the Harvest shares “Revisiting Rioja: Vinedos Singulares with Bodegas Ontañon”
- Nicole at Somms Table shares “One Day in Haro”
- Lauren at The Swirling Dervish shares “White Rioja: There’s a Style for Every Palate”
- Linda at My Full Wine Glass shares “Classic Rioja Alta to kick off virtual trip to Spain”
- Terri at Our Good Life shares “Our First Rioja with Assorted Easy Tapas”
- Susannah at Avvinare shares “Exploring Legendary Winery Marqués de Riscal”
- Gwendolyn at Wine Predator shares “Regional Rioja: Tempranillo, Viura, Rosado paired with hearty soup, salad, lamb, papas frites”
- Martin of ENOFYLZ shares Reconsider Rioja Blanca with Lopez de Heredia
- Jeff at Food Wine Click! shares “Rioja Oriental – A Cinderella Story”
The best Rosé I’ve ever had was the 2000 Ldh Gran Reserva Rosado. I was looking forward to trying the most recent releases, but the prices are insane. I purchased the 2000 for $35. The Bodegas de la Marques Valseranno sounds wonderful. How much is it?
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Thanks for the shout-out, Marcia! I loved learning about these wines – and of course, drinking them was a pleasure. I’ve now got a full-blown Rioja Blanco obsession. After reading your post I realize I need to track down a bottle of the rosado: and I will try to hold onto it for a while before opening!
You talk about white Rioja being cult. When I visited Lopez de Heredia they wouldn’t let you buy just one bottle of the rosado or the Tondia Reserva, only in packs with two other red wines. When asked why, they mentioned the cult like status. The shawarma… mmm with that blanco! I understand more recently Chardonnay is an allowed grape?
I mentioned to Martin how much a bottle of the white would cost in the store I work at. But we do the same thing: you can’t buy a bottle of the white unless you buy two reds :). Yes to the chardonnay. It never said that on my bottle though but they mention it on the website.
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A great look at the Rioja white wines! You’re right, super cult-ish and not well-known enough. You know I love those Lopez de Heredia Wines!
“Must track down Viura.” Writing down those words after reading your post. The Bodegas de la Marques Valseranno paired with shawarma seems like a good place to start.
“Must. track. down. Viura.” Writing down those words after reading posts like yours today. The Bodegas de la Marques Valseranno that you and “Mr. Joy of Wine ” paired with Shawarma seems like a good place to start.
What beautiful bottles that I’m sure will be worth the wait! These wines of Lopez de Heredia sound fascinating!
I love hearing your perspective from in a wine shop. From the outside that seems like such a dreamy job to me, surrounded by stunning bottles, each with a story and getting to share those stories with the people who come through the door.
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Inspired! I tracked down a bottle of Viura. Yes, it’s not even 8 o’clock in the morning and I’m shopping for wine. LOL. Thanks for sharing.
Oh I love the pairing! Not only am I hungry now but wondering what white wines I have on hand that would go well with chicken swarma and tabouli.
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