Northern Spain’s most widely-planted white grape, Viura—also known as Macabeo in the Penedes region, and as Macabeu in the Catalan language—is one of many treasured indigenous varieties of the Iberian peninsula, and a grape capable of producing some of the most distinctive, complex, and long-aging white wines in all of Spain. From the mountainous plateau of Rioja to the Mediterranean vineyards of Catalunya, Viura offers a window into the breadth, depth, and diversity of Spanish winemaking in one of its most distinct white wine categories.
Highly adapted to hot and dry conditions, Viura is a perfect match for the terroir of Ebro River Valley, where, as 90% of all white grape plantings, it makes up a blending majority of the highly sought-after Rioja Blanco. Some common minor blending partners including Malvasia, Garnacha Blanca, and Chardonnay, but a single-varietal bottling of Viura is not uncommon. When released young, as a Joven or Crianza wine, Rioja blanco shows crystalline citrus and melon on the palate, with a deep minerality and notes of dried savory herbs and fresh flowers. When aged and released as a Reserva or Gran Reserva—bottled after two, four, or even ten or more years—white Rioja is truly given the chance to express its heady aromatics and textured, saline palate of honey, hazelnut, almond, lemon curd, and dried pineapple. A rarity in the world of white wines, Viura’s innate ability to withstand oxidation makes it a natural match for oak aging, one of the key vinicultural practices of the region.
With a younger Rioja blanco, or with one vinified in a modern style sans oak, try pairing with lighter grilled seafood, shellfish, or herb salads with citrus-forward dressings. An older, more traditional example—especially one that has seen significant time aging in cask—calls for a richer pairing like herbed mushroom risotto, where the wine’s integration of fruit and non-fruit flavors can match the dish’s savory earthiness.
In the Cava producing regions around Barcelona, Viura—or rather, Macabeo—is prized as a blending partner with fellow local varietals Parellada and Xarel-lo. Bringing ripe citrus, floral notes, and its distinctively waxy palate to the blend, Macabeo usually acts as the core of most cava blends (even as chardonnay has grown in popularity). Classic cava pairings include raw seafood preparations, rich sheep’s milk cheeses, and virtually anything fried. The oaked Reserva and Gran Reserva styles, which are aged for at least 15 or 30 months respectively (but often much longer), are seeing a resurgence on the dinner table as well, where their richer flavor profile offers increased flexibility to pair throughout the meal—and even along with heavier dishes like turbot or roasted lamb— rather than just functioning as an aperitif.
Curious for more on Viura and where it grows? Learn more about Spain’s wine regions here.