Finders & Keepers | Intriguing Varieties from Spain
By Louise Wilson MW
Wine not only quenches our palates; the discovery of new grape varieties also satisfies our thirst for knowledge and gastronomic experiences.
With its bounty of terroirs, its pockets of pre-Phylloxera old vines and its passionate winegrowers, Spain is uniquely positioned to offer us a wide range of enticing indigenous varieties. The best of these produce wines with depth from the vines’ viticultural struggle, tension from fruit that has ripened in moderated climates and elegance from adept winemaking. Here we explore just a few of the intriguing varieties that Spain has to offer.
On volcanic Tenerife, ungrafted Listán Negro is an ideal vector for terroir. While the science is unclear, wines made from grapes grown on volcanic earth have the potential to echo the soil’s minerality. For Listán Negro, this layer of savoury complexity offsets the wine’s fruit core adding depth and interest. A range of styles exist to explore; from fruit-forward low tannin wine to well-structured barrel aged reds.
Rescued from near extinction in the 70s, Godello excels in the Atlantic-influenced climate of Valdeorras. Godello offers the appealing combination of firm structure and rich fruit intensity. For some, this reads like a cool climate Chardonnay, while others identify with the weight and richness of Viognier. Regardless of interpretation, this noteworthy grape has the potential to deliver memorable white wines.
Far from being considered royalty, Bobal was previously valued for its high yields. Now, grown at higher altitudes and benefitting from green harvesting, it demonstrates the ability to produce wines of distinctive quality. Top examples hail from Utiel-Requena where Bobal is used to make intensely flavoured, richly coloured red, sparkling and rosé wine.
Similarly, Mencía was also used to produce simplistic wine in the past. That changed when the discovery of old vines grown on hillsides in Bierzo illustrated the quality potential of this unique Iberian variety. Today Mencía produces quality mid-weight red wines packed with herbal black fruit flavours and aromas.
While Graciano has long been recognized as the perfume in Rioja’s blends, it has recently claimed its own spotlight in single varietal red wines. By providing the viticultural attention that it demands, wine growers are now producing expressive, well-structured, flavour-packed examples of Graciano.
For those passionate about wine, the hunt for continually evolving experiences is not a passing trend. Exploration has become a fundamental aspect of our connection to wine. Due to the high quality and unique flavour profiles that the indigenous varieties of Spain deliver, they are likely to remain in our repertoire as we continue to enjoy and share them with fellow wine lovers.
Louise Wilson MW lives in the Niagara region and is one of ten Masters of Wine based in Canada. Louise is especially passionate about the opportunity wine provides for continual learning and new experiences.
Order these Spanish wines made from indigenous grapes from Cellar 284 until May 3, 2021