Summertime for most of the United States means the return of vegetation. Both our rural and urban areas come alive with the blossoming of flowers, the production of fruits and vegetables and the long hours of sunshine. We spend countless evenings cherishing this season. As we relax, whether on our own patio or at a neighborhood restaurant, we look for refreshing wines to share the intimate harmony between both humanity and nature.
Spanish white wines drink so well during the summer you would think these simple, quaffable wines contributed to modern Spain’s budding culinary scene. But just as Spain confronts its reputation as a seafront, sangria-drinking resort, their inexpensive whites are demanding a new contemplation among the country’s gastronomic renaissance. Here in the United States, Spanish wines offer us the best of both worlds: great food wines at a reasonable price.
Whether the cuisine is Mediterranean, Galician, or Basque, Spanish white wines rule the new culinary table. Rich langostinos with an albarino from Rias Biaxas, Meditteranean paella and Cava, or chiquieto and chocos with a luscious Chacolis, combine Spain’s mysterious past with its marvelous future.
The Spanish sparkling wine Cava makes one of the most food friendly beverages available. Its been said before, and I’ll say it again, “Good Cava is the ultimate BBQ drink.” Forget beer, it has too much sugar to quench summertime thirst and not even the driest Riesling can cut through BBQ sauce with molasses. Cava accomplishes both and much more.
One reason for Cava’s success lies in its ingredients. The Macabeo and Parellada grapes produce clean and solid sparkling wines with nearly perfect acidity. Macabeo grapes provide herbal and spicy aromas while the Parellada grapes give the wine its creamy structure and lean but powerful body.
Cavas, especially those made in the methode champenoise, (champagne method) turn out quality wines at a third of the price of Champagne. Young Spanish vineyards yield good and ripe varieties for a much better price than the more mature vineyards of Champagne. Inexpensive, but sound ingredients make all the difference. Better for growers, producers and consumers.
One of the most prominent wine regions of Galicia, Rias Biaxas, takes its name from the low lying estuaries along Spain’s cool and lush northwestern coast. It is here the albarino grape reigns supreme. The fresh, fruity and highly acidic albarino naturally pair well with both the rich, cold-water fish of Northwestern Spain and the hard cow’s milk cheeses produced in its local provinces.
Here in the United States, the wines of Rias Biaxas match well with our summer salads of fresh, crisp greens, juicy and rich tomatoes and light cheeses such as goat or parmesan. For those fans of cold summer soups such as gazpacho, cold-carrot or squash, the albarino grapes shouldn’t be passed up. Refreshing wines with their equally refreshing counterparts.
Possibly the most mysterious and non-Spanish part of Spain, Basque country remains both an area rooted in strong traditions and a complex region whose culinary influence is felt worldwide. And the wines of Basque country only enhance the traditions and complexity. Whereas the Basque language contributes to most of the complication, the wines themselves are easy and offer consumers in the United States an opportunity to pair difficult spices.
Often called “Green Spain,” Basque country wines represents northern Spain in a unique and delicious way. The ondarri zuri grapes found in the Chacoli wines of Basque country are light, aromatic wines. Crystal yellow in color, these wines combine dry tropical fruit flavors with a luscious yet almost snappy finish. Traditionally aged in oak barrels, the Chacoli wines take on a more green style when aged in stainless steel barrels.
Try Basque wines with spicy Indian, Creole and Asian dishes. The lighter and more seafood laden the dish, the better the combination with Basque wines. Some Basque wines on the sweeter side go well with the nouvelle cuisine of our American inspired sushi restaurants. A Basque Vizcaya and a spicy, ginger and wasabi-spiked spider roll can make the summer heat appear mild.
When choosing a Spanish white wine, remember to consider the source. Not all importers and shops are alike. Check with your local wine merchant and find out the latest on Spanish importers. If you find a good bottle, note the importer and try some different wines from their portfolio. Experiment and enjoy. Saludos!