Summer Sippers - Part 1

As we enter the dog days of summer you might feel the need for some zippy wines to freshen your palates and to pair with lighter meals liked grilled fish and seafood and summer salads. Look no further than the white wines of northern Spain. Here are three grape varieties that share some characteristics you might like in other white wines (like Sauvignon Blanc or un-oaked Chardonnay) but that offer a bit of regional flair and great food pairing options.

Albariño, grown in the northern, coastal region of Rias Baixas, is probably Spain's best-known white wine export. Styles of Albariño range from very crisp and tart to round and peachy to sometimes even earthy, depending on differing terroir and microclimates found in this region, as well as different winemaking techniques (time on lees or even barrel aging). What all the wines have in common is great natural acidity, moderate alcohol and a pronounced mineral and often slightly salty finish, making them fresh and thirst-quenching. The wines can be quite aromatic and often have flavours of peach, apricot, melon, pineapple, mango and honeysuckle ( Pair Albariño with fish tacos, ceviche and oysters or grilled peppers or salty cheeses.

Verdejo, from the Rueda region, produces wines which burst with citrus, grass, fennel, and orange blossom. As the pros at aptly describe Verdejo: "It’s often likened to Sauvignon Blanc but really, it deserves its own category. Unlike most whites, Verdejo continues to improve over several years of bottle-aging, where it gains a rich texture and flavors of toasted Marcona almonds, supported by sparkly acidity. The bitter flavors of grass and fennel come in on the finish and almost make the wine taste crunchy." Now that sounds like a perfect summer wine! Verdejo is great with fish and seafood, but like Sauvignon Blanc it is a wine that really sings with vegetables: artichokes, asparagus, avocados and all things green and leafy.

Gavin Hubble ( notes that Godello has undergone a revival in the north-west of Spain since the 1970's, and is a grape that has been likened to Chardonnay because of its versatility and range of styles. He writes: "Godello wines can display white fruits such as apples and pears, with citrus hints of limes and grapefruit, as well as delicate floral aromas of blossom and honeysuckle. [They can be] wines with medium to high fruit intensity, and wines showcasing nuances of honey, cream, brioche, vanilla, hazelnuts and sometimes even flint and white pepper - enjoy." A wine with something for everyone. :)

I usually try to review wines that you can buy, but the ones I've had recently are in short supply at the LCBO, so I'll recommend a few that I know by reputation as well.

For Albariño, the Paco and Lola ($19.95) is a solid choice but perhaps the more intriguing choice would be the excellently reviewed Pazo de Villarei Albariño 2018 ($18.95 ). If it comes back into stock, I very much enjoyed the Castelo do Mar ($18.95) when I tried it a few months back.

There are a few options in stock for Verdejo, including the Tamaral Verdejo 2018 ($18.85) which has been well reviewed by a number of critics. I just had a bottle of the Cuatro Rayas 4R Verdejo 2018 ($13.95), which I thought was stellar for the price, juicy, concentrated and lively.

The supply of Godello is sadly limited right now, but if it does come back to LCBO shelves, make sure to try the A Coroa Godello 2018 ($24.95), which is a beautifully mineral-driven wine with lots of satisfying savoury notes.

I wish you happy adventures with Spanish white wine. :)

Until next time, stay safe and healthy and enjoy your wine.