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Sip like Spaniards: Pick verdejo, rioja

Sip like Spaniards: Pick verdejo, rioja

When I travel, my priority is exploring and learning the local wine regions. My family has been traveling to Marbella, Spain, for several years. As is sometimes the case with a traveling writer, I am typing this column while sitting on the beach enjoying the soft rolling waves of the Mediterranean Sea and, of course, a glistening glass of local wine is sitting on my side table. Which brings me back to exploring local wines.

This trip I decided I had exhausted winery and vineyard visits throughout this area and instead focused on local wines I would find in grocery stores and restaurants. That was the easy part. The daunting part was finding wines I could also enjoy in my Adirondack chair sitting on my deck at home in the Arkansas sunshine.

Verdejo was by far the most accessible of white wines. Wines from this grape line the retail shelves with hundreds of producers. Verdejo is generally the “house wine” at restaurants. It’s similar in style to some sauvignon blancs and pinot gris. It is produced in the cool region of Rueda where it has a sharp acidity, lemon, citrus and mineral flavors. But the biggest appeal of this local gem is the price. It ranged from $3 to $15. Almost all the styles we’ve tried in Spain are available in the United States for $15 or less. However, the most important tip I can impart is to be sure you are buying a very recent vintage because the acidity and refreshing aspect is the reason it’s so enjoyable to drink.

Most of us are very familiar with the red wine rioja. Bottle after bottle — that wine never disappointed. It was an easy pair-up to almost any dish, from red meat to seafood. Made mostly from the tempranillo grape, it ranged from $5 to $30 on the retail shelves and on wine lists. The style most locals buy as an everyday drinking wine is the young, fresh and fruity taste. Checking Arkansas stores, I found many styles and price points readily available.

THE VALUE

  • 2015 Tapena Verdejo, Spain (about $12 retail)

THE SPLURGE

  • 2013 Campo Viejo Rioja, Spain (about $24 retail)