Spanish white wines at “Curso Vitivinícola Connaisseur”

Every Monday evening between 16 January and 5 March my nearest El Corte Inglés is hosting a 2 hour long wine appreciation session under the heading “Curso Vitivinícola Connaisseur“. It is by invitation of El Corte Inglés only, I’m afraid, and geared towards the habitués of ECI’s Club del Gourmet.

I missed the first session, but on 23 January I was able to attend the white wine at the hands of Pablo Ossorio, a winemaking power in the land as a result of being at the helm of both the giant Bodegas Murviedro and the smaller boutique venture Bodegas Hispano-Suizas.

There must have been fifty-something people in the room. I was bit nervous how they’d respond to a long talk (with PowerPoint presentation) covering the world of white wine in general, but the public was attentive, almost docile.

There followed a tasting of five Spanish white wines of different, but representative, styles: a verdejo, albariño, a xarel·lo, a sauvignon blanc-moscatel blend, and a barrel-fermented sauvignon blanc.

For myself, I’d have liked a bit more of an international presence, something on riesling, and differences between New World and Old, but the tasting did effectively show something of the range of grapes and styles of white wines available in a country where red rules the roost.

Ossorio was at pains to point out that in this hot country a lot of white wine is drunk, but too often treated as a thirst-quencher rather than on its vinous merits. The good news, apparently, is that more women are calling for the wine lists and moving away from macho reds. Murviedro made their Alba moscatel-Sauvignon blanc blend following extensive market research among women, finding out what they liked in a wine, and producing a wine to match. The result is a heady, highly perfumed wine that suggests sweetness while not actually being that sweet.

I’m all for Spanish white wines making headway. White wines account for half the wine that is drunk, but are given far less attention by critics and opinion formers. Technology over recent times has transformed the quality of white wines everywhere, but particularly dramatically in Spain. Rueda’s global success has seen big players come in looking for volume and rapid returns. The challenge will be, as ever, to maintain quality and personality. Let’s hope the consumer demands this, in Spain and elsewhere.