No White Whine About these White Wines

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For those who have been following along, I've been profiling some of the major wine trends and highlighting my findings from this year's swath of New York City portfolio tastings. The tastings are an opportunity for wine and liquor distributors in the area to open "one of everything," so to speak, and let their customers try stuff that they might not have a chance to otherwise.

It's also a great chance to survey the landscape and take notice of where the industry is heading. I try to look at these events in a "forest for the trees" kind of way, sometimes noticing unfortunate trends but sometimes noticing the encouraging proliferation of up-and-coming areas and grapes that deserve more of the spotlight.

I am extremely happy to report that one of my favorite, albeit broad, categories of wine saw a huge surge in presence at the tasting tables this year. I am speaking of white wines from Spain. This, of course, covers a hefty spectrum; virtually every wine-growing region in Spain produces white wine. But the American market has had a hard time catching on to these delicious and often complex wines. Perhaps that is beginning to change.

Today I will profile several of the amazing white wines I've tasted from several different regions of Spain to hopefully jumpstart your own personal tasting trip through that country's great vineyards.

Starting in Rueda, a growing area known for its whites just west of Ribera del Duero, where the verdejo grape flourishes. I look at this grape almost as Spain's answer to Grüner Veltliner. It can be delicate and floral but fruity and complex at the same time. The Ipsum Rueda 2010 ($12.99 at Morrell and Company, 1 Rockefeller Plaza, 212-223-1846) is 60 percent verdejo and represents the grape well. The scent of sugar-sprinkled grapefruit is dominant on the nose. The palate is refreshing but layered, with honey and grass notes up front and white pepper in the middle. I wish there was a longer finish, but it's still very good.

Going 100 percent verdejo, the Oro de Castilla Rueda 2010 ($15.99 at Morrell and Company) cranks the complexity up to 11. There's tons of wet earth, mushroom and funk on the nose, with a backbone of citrus rind. The palate shimmers with minerality and underripe peach notes. The finish is clean and crisp, balancing out the vibrant front end. This is the definition of a white wine made for food.

Traveling all the way to the northwestern coast of Spain, the area of Rias Baixas has some of the best albariño Spain has to offer. Not unlike verdejo, albariño wines can be delicate and complex at the same time. I've found them to be even more versatile, however.

The Pazo de Galegos Albariño 2010 ($14 at Yorkshire Wines and Spirits, 1646 1st Ave. at 85th St., 212-717-5100) has lots of bright green herbs, but also a good amount of creamy vanilla on the nose. More vanilla up front on the palate segues gently and naturally into ripe white peach and orange blossom honey. All of this is balanced perfectly with a firm acidity on the finish. One of the best balanced whites I've had in a long time.

Spain also has its own quirky local grapes that you won't find anywhere else. While it may be some time before you see these wines on the shelves of every corner mom-and-pop liquor store, it's worth seeking them out for their uniqueness.

The Bodegas Berroja Berroia 2010 ($15.99 at 67 Wine, 179 Columbus Ave. at 68th St.. 212-724-6767) is made of 90 percent Hondarribi Zuri grapes, but what's really important is how delicious it is. Tons of bright citrus on the nose lead to a swath of juicy, ripe lemon and orange up front on the palate. This is followed by a clean and refreshing middle, with lots of wet limestone and hints of chervil. A clean, crisp finish makes this a wine that'll remind you of summer, even in the dead of winter.

I hope you found something to pique your interest in this year's portfolio tastings overview. I know I did!

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