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Robin Garr

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WTN /WineAdvisor: Hiding in plain sight (Muñoz 2005 Castilla Macabeo)

by Robin Garr » Fri Oct 27, 2006 2:18 pm

Hiding in plain sight

Let's wrap up the work week with another of our frequent trips down the wine world's less familiar paths, taking a quick look at the Spanish grape Macabeo.

Macabeo ("Mah-cah-BAY-oh") may be one of the most widely planted white grapes that you've never heard of. It's popular across a wide swath of northern Spain, and it spills over to the French side of the Pyrenees with the soundalike synonyms Maccabeu and Maccabeo Alcanol. It's also grown in Rioja under the alternative moniker <I>Viura</i> ("Vee-OO-dah").

Macabeo, along with the similarly unfamiliar grapes Xarel-lo and Parellada, is a major player in <i>cava</i>, the inexpensive, good-value Spanish sparkling wine that's popular around the world. If you've ever enjoyed a fizzy cava, you've probably tasted Macabeo without realizing that you were doing so.

Macabeo makes a crisp, white wine with fragrant floral aromas, not overly high in acid, a description that encourages wine makers to blend it with other grapes to achieve a more balanced flavor profile.

The Spanish name suggests a possible, mysterious connection with the Old Testament heroes Judah Macabee and his brothers, but I've been able to dig up anything definitive about its etymology. If any of you have information on this, I'd love to hear it and hope you'll post the information on our WineLovers Discussion Group or send me E-mail.

Today's featured wine is the first varietally labeled Macabeo I've seen at retail. It's made by the Spanish producer Legado Muñoz in the Tierra de Castilla region of central Spain, near Madrid. It's an interesting wine at a fair price, a good addition to your "life list" if you enjoy collecting odd varieties as much as I do.

<table border="0" align="right" width="125"><tr><td><img src="http://www.wineloverspage.com/graphics1/muno1015.jpg" border="1" align="right"></td></tr></table>Legado Muñoz 2005 Vino de la Tierra de Castilla Macabeo ($11)

Clear light gold; a clear-glass bottle shows off its color on the shelf. Pear and melon aromas, fresh white fruit, lead into a mouth-filling, medium-bodied flavor, dry and tart, with white fruit flavors that follow the nose; crisp lemon-lime persists in a long finish. Simple but appealing, a nicely balanced table wine. According to the importer's spec sheet, there's 10% Riesling in the blend. U.S. importer: Quality Wines of Spain, NYC. (Oct. 15, 2006)

<B>FOOD MATCH:</b> It made a fine match with, and ingredient in, linguine with white clam sauce.

<B>VALUE:</B> Hard to beat as a white-wine value at this price point just over $10.

<B>WHEN TO DRINK:</B> I can't claim much experience with Macabeo, but the conventional wisdom suggests that it's not made for aging, and in my experience, the Cavas in particular don't last. Drink over the next year.

<B>WEB LINK:</B>
Here's a link to an importer page with information about Legado Muñoz plus further links to the Macabeo and other wines.

<B>FIND THIS WINE ONLINE:</B>
Compare prices and find vendors for the wines of Legado Muñoz on Wine-Searcher.com.
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Victor de la Serna

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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Hiding in plain sight (Muñoz 2005 Castilla Macabeo)

by Victor de la Serna » Fri Oct 27, 2006 3:11 pm

Finca Muñoz has over 100 acres under vines in Noblejas near Toledo, Robin. They are in the La Mancha DO, but (like several other quality producers in the appellation), they prefer to 'declassify' their wines into the Vinos de la Tierra de Castilla appellation, akin to a French 'vin de pays'. This is because they think the La Mancha DO has a negative image.

The Muñoz family are outstanding producers (the winery has been in opreation since 1941, but they made a quantum leap in quality in the late 1990s). I think that it's remarkable that they can produce fresh, amiable white wines from low-acidity grapes like macabeo and chardonnay in such a hot climate. I know there are a zillion chards available our there, but if you can taste theirs, try it. Year in, year out, it's one of the best chardonnays produced in Spain, and with an unbeatable QPR. The Reserva Tempranillo ain't hay either.
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Robin Garr

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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Hiding in plain sight (Muñoz 2005 Castilla Macabeo)

by Robin Garr » Fri Oct 27, 2006 3:16 pm

Thanks for the useful background, Victor! I should have asked you *before* I wrote it. :)

Hey, any insight on the varietal name ... IS there any connection that you know of with the Maccabees in the Old Testament?
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Hiding in plain sight (Muñoz 2005 Castilla Macabeo)

by Victor de la Serna » Fri Oct 27, 2006 3:43 pm

I've searched for it, but I can't find any explanation of the etymology - either in Spanish or in French.

One more fact: I believe the best macabeo grapes (more concentrated, intense and tasty than elsewhere) in Spain actually come from my own back yard in Manchuela, and the co-ops here have been producing for years large amounts of macabeo wines (including barrel-fermented ones) for the big British supermarket chains like Tesco, Sainsbury's or Marks & Spencer, with very good success. Sometimes these wines are labeled 'Viura' in the UK, since the Rioja name of the grape is more familiar to the international buyer.

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