Spanish Grapes other than Tempranillo (Jun-2023)
An article by Madeline Puckette (1) focused on Spanish-origin grape varieties, besides the most obvious, Tempranillo, the key grape in Rioja, Ribera del Duero, and Toro regions of Spain. Most of us are well-aware that Tempranillo is widely planted and produces delicious Texas wines, but for this Carl’s Corner edition, let’s look at other Spanish grape varieties that can enhance our summertime wine drinking pleasure.
Here is a quick listing of these grape varieties. More detailed info on each will follow.
Macabeo (aka Viura) - key grape (often blended with Parellada and Xarello) used to produce Cava, the Spanish sparkling wine, in the Penedes region;
Albariño – a familiar grape that is the primary white variety from northwestern Spain;
Viura (aka Macabeo) - key grape in white Rioja wines, sometimes blended with Malvasia and Garnacha Blanca;
Prieto Picudo - richly flavored dark red grape common in the Castilla y Leon region northwest of Madrid;
Garnacha (aka Grenache) - grown all over Spain, but especially in the hot, arid northeastern Mediterranean regions of Calatayud and Priorat; and
Monastrell (aka Mourvèdre, also called Mataro) - most commonly grown in the hot, southeastern Mediterranean-influenced regions of Valencia and Murcia.
When Texans began to plant grapes and learn to make wine, consideration was given to varieties that develop and grow well in other wine regions with similar climates. Texas has a wide range of climates in which different grapes can either flourish or flounder, so variety selection is important. Average weather patterns during the growing and harvest season, diurnal temperature variations, and water/rain availability are key contributors to a particular climate, and the same is true in all wine regions, including Spain and Texas. Climate characteristics have certainly influenced which grape varieties are planted in Texas and in what region.
Sparkling wines called Cava are a big part of Spanish wine production. The key grape variety, Macabeo (aka Viura), is relatively rare in Texas. Some may already be planted and at least two growers have placed orders to nurseries and will hopefully have vines planted soon. Chenin Blanc is most widely used to make sparkling wine in Texas, and Macabeo could be a great addition. Given the popularity of sparkling wines in Texas tasting rooms (especially with bachelorette, or “bridal posse” groups), this is an area that will likely see significant growth in the next decade.
The current popularity of Petillant Naturel wines, simply called PetNats, may also benefit from Macabeo. PetNats are made using an ancient method of bottling and capping a wine that has almost finished fermentation, allowing fermentation to finish in the sealed bottle. This creates carbon dioxide pressure but leaves sediment from the yeast which can be off-putting to some. These PetNats have a moderate level of carbon dioxide pressure and are very refreshing for warm weather sipping. Produced from both red and white grape varieties, expect this trend to continue.
Albariño is commonly grown in the far northwestern Spanish regions of Galicia and Rias Baixas, and just south of these areas in northern Portugal where it is called Alvarinho. These regions have a bit cooler growing climate and in Texas, that translates to the High Plains. Albariño wines tend to be lighter in body, have citrusy (Meyer lemon, mandarin orange) and lime pith characteristics, and are often enjoyed by those who like Sauvignon Blanc, dry Riesling, and Gruner Veltliner. For me, Albarino offers characteristics similar to squeezing lime juice into a Mexican beer.
Viura is another name for Macabeo, is the primary grape variety for producing full-bodied white Rioja wines. Fermentation is traditionally done in oak barrels, usually American oak, and the wines are aged for some time, both in barrel and in bottle, before release. The characteristics are then similar to oak-treated Chardonnays and Rhône whites, like Roussanne and Viognier. With plans for future plantings, it will be exciting to see what this grape can do in Texas.
Prieto Picudo is a fairly rare indigenous red grape variety that produces medium-bodied, deeply colored red wines in the large northwestern Spanish region of Castilla y Leon. Prieto Picudo is sometimes blended with Tempranillo to add darker color and rich black cherry flavors. There is at least one planting of this variety in Texas at Sandy Road Vineyard, and based on results so far, the future looks bright.
Garnacha, or Grenache as we know it in Texas, is a very important grape all along the southern Mediterranean regions of Spain and France, especially the Rhône Valley. In Texas, Grenache produces delicious medium-bodied red wines, is often included in blends, and is probably best known as the “G” in popular “GSM” blends.
Monastrell, or Mourvèdre as we know it in Texas, typically produces dark, rich red-black wines with black and red fruit aromas and flavors, including chocolate covered cherries, black plums, blueberries, and mulberries. A lot of flavor comparisons can be found in Malbec, Shiraz (Syrah), and Cabernet Sauvignon wines. The best of these wines can be classified as “big boys,” both in Spain and Texas. Oak aging is relatively common and only adds to the wine’s “bigness.” Of all these Spanish varieties, Mourvèdre is the one that seems to thrive most widely across the various Texas climates.
Madeline Puckette writes in her article that wines from these Spanish grape varieties provide a bridge for exploring the world of European wines, and at a relatively attractive price. However, if you are a Texan, you will want to focus on the delicious wines being produced from these Spanish-origin grape varieties right here in the Lone Star State. Buen estado de salud!!
(1) 7 Spanish Wines (Other Than Tempranillo) Worth Drinking Right Now, Wine Folly, 21-Apr-2016 (Updated 01-Feb-2021), by Madeline Puckette, James Beard Award-winning author & Wine Communicator of the Year, co-founder of Wine Folly
(2) a. Climate of Spain - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Climate_of_Spain
b. The Weather and Climate in Spain - https://www.tripsavvy.com/weather-in-spain-
c. Spain Climate -https://www.britannica.com/place/Spain/Climate
d. The Climate in Spain - https://www.spain.info/en/weather
Hello, This is Carl Hudson, Wine Educator for Texas Wine Collective. Although Tempranillo is widely planted and produces delicious Texas wines, for this Carl’s Corner edition let’s look at other Spanish grape varieties that can enhance our summertime wine drinking pleasure.
When Texans began to plant grapes and learn to make wine, consideration was given to varieties that grow well in other wine regions with similar climates. The following Spanish-origin grapes were certainly in the mix.
Sparkling wines called Cava are a big part of Spanish wine production and the key grape variety, Macabeo, is relatively rare in Texas. Chenin Blanc is most widely used to make Texas sparkling wine and given the popularity of sparklers and PetNats in Texas tasting rooms, Macabeo could be a great addition.
Albariño prefers a bit cooler growing climate and in Texas, that translates to the High Plains. Albarino wines tend to be lighter in body with citrusy notes, very refreshing for summer. For me, Albarino offers characteristics similar to squeezing lime juice into a Mexican beer.
Viura, another name for Macabeo, produces full-bodied white Rioja wines. Fermentation and aging is traditionally done in oak barrels giving characteristics similar to oak-treated Chardonnays and Rhône whites. It will be exciting to see what future plantings of this grape bring to Texas.
Prieto Picudo is a fairly rare indigenous red grape that is sometimes blended with Tempranillo to add darker color and richer flavors. There is at least one planting of this variety in Texas at Sandy Road Vineyard, and based on results so far, the future looks bright.
Garnacha, or Grenache as we know it in Texas, can make some delicious medium-bodied varietal wines but is probably best known as the “G” in popular “GSM” blends.
Monastrell, or Mourvèdre as we know it in Texas, produces rich red-black wines that compare to Malbec, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Of all these Spanish varieties, Mourvèdre is the one that seems to thrive across the widest range of Texas climates.
These Spanish grape varieties can provide a bridge for exploring the world of European wines, but as a Texan you will want to focus on wines from these grape varieties made right here in Texas. Buen estado de salud!!