With about 400 indigenous grape varieties (“varietals” in winespeak), Spain really has no signature grape. (We use the word “indigenous” loosely, as many of Spain’s wine-making grapes were originally brought from Africa by the Moors and others.) Many American wine drinkers know tempranillo, the dominant grape in the red wines from Rioja and Ribera del Duero. And albariño from the Rías Baixas district in Galicia is thought by some to produce Spain’s best white wines – for example, the Burgans Albariño we featured last week. But verdejo makes a solid case with its lemon-scented minerality and crisp acidity that makes it particularly food-friendly.
And this 91-point verdejo that’s widely available in DC, Maryland and Virginia, on sale for as little as $12 a bottle, makes a particularly compelling case for the grape. The 2009 Shaya Verdejo Old Vines Rueda is like the Burgen Albariño and our other favorite Spanish whites, in that it’s the latest vintage of a string of pleasing wines.
“Medium straw-colored, it offers up an alluring aroma of baking spices, spring flowers, and peach,” wrote Jay Miller of Wine Advocate, scoring it 91 points in the April 2010 issue. “On the palate it has a creamy texture, vibrant acidity, and intense flavors leading to a lengthy, fruit-filled finish. It is a great value in dry, aromatic white wine that over-delivers in a big way.”
“Not showy, but focused and balanced, this medium-bodied white offers pear, floral and mineral notes with herbal accents,” wrote Wine Spectator’s Thomas Matthews, awarding 88 points in the July 21, 2010 issue. “It shows typicity and nerve.”
That means that it tastes like other verdejo wines he’s tasted, though we’re clueless on how a white wine shows “nerve.” (Did it serve itself with red meat?)
The 91 points from WA and Spectator’s 88 are a slight down tick from the 92 and 89 points they respectively scored the 2008. Bodegas Shaya is a relatively recent collaboration between the Gil family of Jumilla, Spain and importer Jorge Ordoñez (who brings us many of our Spanish favorites), so it may take another solid vintage or two to crack the Wine for the Rest of Us list of Top 5 Spanish Whites. But wines that consistently score in the 90s and cost $12 to $15 won’t be missing for long.
Check out this slideshow to find Shaya Verdejo at a wine shop near you. (Or compare prices nationwide and find Shaya Verdejo online.)
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