Aging in oak barrels has been a tradition in Spain for centuries, but now there is a trend to both ferment and age white wine in barrels. They are classified crianza. Spain’s native varieties are [particularly suitable for this technique.
But oak type, barrel shape and size play an important role in the final product. There are many oaks suitable for wine barrels – French oak (Jupille, Troncais, Limousin, Allier, Vosge), American, Hungarian, Slovenian, Russian, Romanian, and Moldavian.
Most winemakers prefer, for their finest white wines, French oak barrel produced by French barrel makers. Barrel sizes vary – 225 litres (Burgundy), 300, 500, 600, and up to 6000 in some Italian regions. The 225-litre size is now the most popular.
Some winemakers like to ferment in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks, and then barrel-age anywhere from six to 18 months, while others ferment and age in barrels pending on local temperature conditions.
Some winemakers like to stir the dead yeast cells after fermentation to extract more intriguing and complex flavours.
The most popular Spanish white grape varieties are: Albarino Bianco (Asturia, Cantabria, Rias Baixas) is related to Albarino, but actually is a relative of Muscatel with a hint of Muscat on the nose.
Albarino (Rias baixas) smells of peaches, with a lively acidity and aging potential
Carinena Blanca, Carinena Gris (Catalonia, Emporada) may be a mutation of Carinena, smells herbal, is mouth filling, perfumed and floral with smoky undertones.
Dona Blanca (Galicia) may be a variant of Merseguera from Valencia further south. Smell floral, tastes of peaches, and displays fine minerality.
Garnacha Blanca (Aragon, Catalonia, and Cotes du Rhone) may be delicate, light, and floral with honeysuckle aromas, fruity with a long aftertaste.
Godello (Galicia) tastes refines and elegant with floral character. It is likely to become very popular soon, as it wines prestigious awards in international competitions.
Malvasia (aka Viura in Rioja, Canary Islands) yields sweet fragrant wines, that are popular with tourists on the Islands of Spain i.e Malorca and Canary Islands in the Atlantic ocean, goes well with local fruits, as a pick-me-up drink between 4 – 6 p m
Moscatel aka Moscatel de Grano menudo, Muscat de Frontignan, and Moscatel de Alejandria, Muscat d’Alexandrie in France (Anadalusia, Montilla, Malaga) yields sweet aromatic, musky, refined and elegant dessert wines to complement ripe fruits and pastries containing fruits.
Picapoll aka Picpoul or Piquepoul in France (Catalonia and Languedoc) ripens late, but yield perfumey, fruity wines with pineapple undertones.
Tardana (Valencia, Utiel-Requena) smells of peaches, with hints of citrus fruits, honeyed flavour, and hints of vanilla
Tempranillo Blanco (Rioja) a variant of Tempranillo. Only few wineries in Rioja use Tempranillo Blanco, notably Bodegas Valdemar.
Verdejo (Rueda) is best known for its musky flavour, herbal and fresh fruit aromas. It tends to be high in acidity and must be toned down.
Viura (Catalonia, Rioja) in Catalonia its goes under the name of Macabeo and constitutes one of the varieties in Cava sparkling wines.
The other varieties in Cava wines are Xare.lo and Parellada. On its own, Viura produces fresh, dry wines with herbal character and some complexity.
Xarel.lo (Catalonia) yields aromatic wines that display remarkable freshness. Barrel aging adds musky flavours tot eh wine. Mostly used along with Parellada and Macabeo for cava wines that are predominantly made in Villafranca del Penedes.