Spain is the world's third-largest wine producer, and it performs surprisingly well in every wine category there is, not simply in standard red, white, and pink wines, but in sparkling wines, like cava, and even fortified wines that have been spiked with distilled spirits, like sherry. The one category that has shown the most dramatic improvement in recent decades is Spain's white wines, of which this brisk, dry, white Rioja is a textbook example. Historically, white wines were the nation's Achilles heel because they spoil faster than reds. The balmy climate of most regions of Spain exposed white wines to excess heat, resulting in an oxidized amber-gold color and flavors closer to those of roasted nuts than to orchard-fresh fruits. However, starting in the 1970s, technological advances in winemaking, like temperature control and inert stainless tanks, led to a transformation in Spain's white wines. Instead of clunky, oxidized styles, Spain is now known for vibrantly fresh whites from its own native grapes. This particular wine, from one of the most respected wineries of the Rioja region, is made with 100 percent viura. It tastes as fresh as a Granny Smith apple, with a mouth-watering undercurrent of lemony tartness, and makes for a great change of pace from dry, unoaked whites, like sauvignon blanc and pinot grigio.
Cune "Monopole" Rioja Blanco, La Rioja, Spain, $11.99 (sale price through Dec. 31, regularly $13.99) PLCB Item #1600; Also available at Canal's in Mount Ephraim, $10.99; and Traino's Wine & Spirits in Marlton, $11.99.