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Written by Bill Citara, BT Contributor   
April 2017

Red, white, and you: Agreeable wine for $12 or less

YPix_Vino_4-17ou’ve no doubt heard the angler’s lament: “They call it ‘fishing,’ not ‘catching.’” Sometimes you land a fat, delicious snapper, other times you pull up an old, grungy boot.

That pretty much nails the situation with this month’s Vino, where we tossed our lines in our usual enological lakes attempting to hook a few good, affordable white wines from Spain. We did a lot of fishing, a bit less catching, in the end coming away with several wines we’d be happy to pour at our respective tables (especially with a fat, delicious snapper) and a couple of old, grungy boots.

We would have liked to include one or two Albariños, arguably Spain’s most popular and best-known white wine (at least in this country). Unfortunately, it’s become so popular and well known that its price has soared beyond our strict budgetary limit.

So, regretfully, we had to pass and instead moved next door to Portugal, where we sampled a couple of Vinho Verdes, young, simple, and low-alcohol wines that are fine complements to seafood and ideal for sipping in the blast-furnace heat and humidity of South Florida summers. Many Vinho Verdes even include a little Albariño (the Portuguese call it Alvarinho) in the blend, which contributes a pleasantly floral, tropical touch.

Consistently among the best values of Spanish wines are bubblies (aka cava). Typically a blend of Macabeo, Xarel-lo, and Parellada grapes, Spanish sparklers may not have the cachet of their French and high-end American counterparts, but they make up for it with their lively fruit-acid balance, easy drinkability, and blessedly moderate prices. The NV Rondel Gold Brut adds a chic gold bottle to the mix, and while its mild green apple-citrus character is hardly distinctive, its $10 price tag means you can suck down a bottle (or several) without busting your budget.

Easily Spain’s best-known red wine is Rioja. What’s a good deal less known, however, is that Rioja also comes in white. Rioja Blanco can be made from just about every white wine grape known to man in styles that range from fresh and fruity to full-bodied, oak-aged, and capable of cellaring. The 2015 El Coto is a good example of the first style, with crisp lemon-lime-grapefruit aromas and flavors that blend citrus with richer-tasting red apple and pear, finishing with just a hint of mineral tang.

Verdejo is where the quality, food-friendliness, and affordability of Spanish white wines all come together. The 2014 Cuatro Rayas Verdejo is all those and more, with a refreshing citrus acidity and beguiling floral notes and hints of ripe stone fruit. A long, soft Meyer lemon finish wraps it up nicely.

The 2015 Marqués de Cáceres Verdejo Rueda was a good catch, too, mellowing its pronounced citrus aromas and flavors with those of green and red apples. Not much complexity here, but it’s light and easy on the palate (as well as the pocketbook) and plays well with food, especially fish and shellfish.

Then there’s the grungy old boot. The unusually deep gold color and bitter, almost sour flavors said the 2014 Palma Real Verdejo had oxidized. Whether it was just a bottle flaw or something in the winemaking itself, I couldn’t say. But I can say this bottle was definitely not worth drinking.

Oxidation was likely also the problem with the 2014 Las Almenas Chardonnay, though not to the same degree as the Palma Real. There was promise in the wine’s faint tropical fruit salad character, but it was buried beneath unpleasant papery-burnt toast aromas and flavors.

Thankfully, we got back to actually fishing with our pair of Portuguese Vinho Verdes. Though Vinho Verdes are typically non-vintage, the Las Lilas Vinho Verde bears a vintage 2015 label. Its aromas are clean, crisp citrus and herbal; on the palate they’re joined by red and green apple flavors with a light, spritzy texture and a tangy lemon-lime finish.

If Broadbent doesn’t sound very Portuguese, that’s because it’s the namesake winery of British wine writer/auctioneer Michael Broadbent and son Bartholomew. The pair’s NV Vinho Verde is particularly light and refreshing, tasting of grapefruit and green apples with a palate-cleansing spritz and long lemony finish. Take a bottle fishing, and even if you don’t catch a fat delicious snapper, you’ll at least catch something good to drink.

 

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