Viura from Rioja’s Conde Valdemar paired with an elegant cod in a saffron sauce
This month with the brand new #WorldWineTravel group will be exploring the wines of Spain this year, beginning with the Rioja region in North Central Spain. You can scroll to the bottom of this post to read my colleagues’ exploration of the wines of this region.
If you want you can join us on Saturday, January 23rd at 8 am PST or a more reasonable 11 am EST on Twitter. Follow and use the hashtag #WorldWineTravel to join the conversation on wines from this region.
When you think of Rioja, you think Spain, you think red wine and you probably think Tempranillo. Back in December, we featured a wine from Rioja in our #12DaysofWine2020 event with the Herederos del Marqués de Riscal Reserva Rioja 2014
Some details we shared then:
“They became Spain’s first designated DO region in 1925 and were the first region elevated to its Calificada status as a DOCa status in 1991.
The region is in north-central Spain in the Ebro River Valley. Most of the region is within the Province of La Rioja, but some vineyards cross over into the Provinces of Navarra and bits of the Basque Region.
Winemaking dates back 2000 years in Rioja, but it was not until the late nineteenth century when new techniques were introduced to the region and then the French came south trying to escape the grasp of phylloxera and the Bordeaux style of aging became prevalent in the area.”
The region is definitely most known for its Tempranillo based red wines.
But there is more to Rioja than red wine and Tempranillo. Today we will be talking about a 100% Viura from Conde Valdemar.
Viura and White Rioja
Viura is a white grape and is the second most widely grown wine grape in Spain. It is known elsewhere in Spain by the names Macabeo or Macabeu. It is grown in Catalonia and blended with Xarello and Parellada in the making of Cava.
Here in Rioja is accounts for almost 70% of the white wine produced, although that is just 10% of the region’s overall production.
Fruit forward with floral notes, it has great acid. As such it’s great for young wines but also can age. It is sometimes blended with Malvasia.
Here in Rioja oak-aged whites are traditional and come in several designations:
- Generico (previously known as Joven) is typically unoaked and has no aging requirements
- Crianza: 18 months of aging with 6 months in oak
- Reserva: 24 months of aging with 6 months in oak
- Gran Reserva: 48 months of aging with 6 months in cask
Finding a Spanish Winery in Washington State
We discovered Bodegas Valdemar in Washington. It’s a long way from Spain, I know. They opened Valdemar Estate in Walla Walla in 2018 to explore making wines of place in this area.
We spent the morning with Kaleigh Vrapi, the Valdemar Estates Hospitality Director learning about the new winery, and doing a tour and tasting.
In addition to tasting their Washington Wines, they have a selection of their Spanish wines available. We left with one of their Syrahs from Blue Mountain as well as a Viura from Conde Valdemar.
You can learn more about their Washington Winery in our overview of our visit with them. And about their delicious Blue Mountain Syrah in our post from last year 12 days of Wine -Day 3 – Valdemar Estates.
Joaquin Martinez Bujanda began this family’s journey in wine in 1889.
In 1985, they created the Conde Valdemar brand and now have 275 hectares under vine and have fourth and fifth generations of the family involved in the business. The vineyards span all three zones in Rioja Alta, Rioja Alavesa, and Rioja Oriental.
Finca Alto Cantabria 2017
This wine is from their Alto Cantabria estate. The Viura here was planted in 1975. This vineyard is on an 11- hectare plateau above the Ebro river. The elevation is 489 meters (1600 feet) and 117 meters (380 feet) above the river. The vineyard has good airflow to keep disease down and is situated to avoid frost risk. Soils are sandy loam and limestone.
At the time that they made the 2017 Vintage, this vineyard was proposed for the “Single Vineyard” designation “Viñedos Singular”. It was approved in 2019. This new designation is exciting as the region is known for blending from multiple sites across the whole of the region.
In addition to other criteria, these vineyards must be a minimum of 35 years old and must be hand-harvested.
Barrel fermented and aged
In 1988 they made this wine, the Finca Alto Cantabria, for the first time. This was the first white wine exclusively fermented and made in barrel in Spain.
The 2017 vintage was macerated for 8 hours and then fermented and aged for 7 months in French Oak.
My notes on this 100% Viura from Conde Valdemar:
Medium lemon in color this wine had a pronounced nose with notes of Lemon, petrol, beeswax, lanoline, citrus pith, and wet stone.
I was taken off guard by the petrol note, that melded into a lanoline note that I associate with Semillon. The nose on this wine seems to expand and fill.
On the palate, it was more simplistic, with tart fruit notes and a richness, like roasted lemon. It is round in your mouth while retaining good acid notes.
What to pair with White Rioja?
Hmm…well first you have to determine what type of White Rioja you have. A fresh young unoaked Generico will pair differently than a Barrel-aged wine.
With unoaked, think fish and shellfish, gazpacho and salads. As you add oak and age, the nutty notes and can develop rich notes of praline and caramelized notes as well as rich fruit notes like grilled pineapple. Depending on the age, you can pair these wines with nuts, stronger flavored cod dishes, and paella. More fully aged wines can handle richer firmer meats, think grilled tuna, turkey or pork.
Elegant cod poached in a saffron sauce & Roasted Potatoes with lemon
Our White Rioja was a bit unique. In addition to having 7 months in barrel, it had spent over 4 years in bottle. Okay, not before release (we purchased it in the summer of 2019), but by the time we opened it we were at 4 and a half years in bottle.
But that’s not all. Remember, I mentioned that this was a barrel ferment? This process increases the texture of the wine.
We opted for a Spanish inspired cod dish with a wine and saffron sauce. The saffron might have been sketchy, it is known for pairing with lighter white wines and leans towards unoaked, but this wine bridged the gap on oak, keeping its brightness. We also used this wine in the dish, which always helps with a pairing.
We added a side of roasted potatoes with lemon and a salad (also Spanish inspired) with seared lemon and goat cheese and a honey wine vinaigrette.
I found that the wine brightened the cod, it went well with the lemon in the potatoes and was a nice contrast with the sweet vinaigrette. This was a very comfortable pairing, rich, but bright. Perhaps not one to sit and contemplate, but to enjoy with good conversation. This is a food-friendly wine and this combination is one that I would do for dinner with friends.
Shout out to “Spain on a Fork” for the inspiration. Watch for the Recipes coming out soon!
Cod in a white wine and Saffron Sauce
What to pair with a white wine from Rioja?
Well I knew it wanted to be a Spanish inspired dish. With the wine we had which was 100% Viura I knew that I needed a flavorful dish for this oak-aged white wine, as while it would be bright, it would also be rich and the dish would need to stand up to that. I settled on fish cooked in a sauce and this recipe for cod cooked in white wine and saffron came close to what I was looking for in the flavor profile.
Roasted Baby Potatoes with Lemon
Roasted tri-color baby potatoes with lemon, garlic, and parsley. A perfect side dish!
The #WorldWineTravel Writers Virtual Trip to Rioja
Here we are with our Inaugural event for the #WorldWineTravel group. You can join us all year as we explore the regions of Spain! Here are my colleagues’ explorations of Rioja!
- Andrea at The Quirky Cork shares “Marqués de Cáceres Crianza with Chorizo Sweet Potato Pockets”
- Wendy at A Day in the Life on the Farm shares “Mexican Ham Soup and a Spanish Rioja Wine”
- Camilla at Culinary Adventures with Camilla shares “Catalan Coques + La Rioja Alta Viña Arana Rioja Gran Reserva 2014”
- Steve at Children of the Grape shares “Tasting Rioja With Aging Eyes”
- Allison and Chris at Advinetures share “Rioja: The Confluence of Tradition & Modernity”
- David at Cooking Chat shares “White Bean Stew with Sausage and a Rioja”
- Lynn at Savor the Harvest shares “Revisiting Rioja: Vinedos Singulares with Bodegas Ontañon”
- Nicole at Somms Table shares “One Day in Haro”
- Lauren at The Swirling Dervish shares “White Rioja: There’s a Style for Every Palate”
- Linda at My Full Wine Glass shares “Classic Rioja Alta to kick off virtual trip to Spain”
- Terri at Our Good Life shares “Our First Rioja with Assorted Easy Tapas”
- Marcia at Joy of Wine shares “White Rioja: Taste and See What You’re Missing”
- Susannah at Avvinare shares “Exploring Legendary Winery Marqués de Riscal”
- Gwendolyn at Wine Predator shares “Regional Rioja: Tempranillo, Viura, Rosado paired with hearty soup, salad, lamb, papas frites”
- Martin at Enofylz shares “Reconsidering Rioja Blanco with the 2008 R. Lopez de Heredia Rioja Blanco Reserva“
- Jeff at Food Wine Click! shares “Rioja Oriental – A Cinderella Story”
Sources and Resources
Robin Renken is a wine writer and Certified Specialist of Wine. She and her husband Michael travel to wine regions interviewing vineyard owners and winemakers and learning the stories behind the glass.
When not traveling they indulge in cooking and pairing wines with food at home in Las Vegas.
I’m so glad that you showcased a white Rioja. I am anxious to try one.
I really enjoyed this wine. Barrel-fermenting and aging give it great body, but the Viura retains its acid. I felt lucky to be able to try them at their winery in Walla Walla, which is, by the way, a fantastic place to spend an afternoon, enjoying tapas, looking out at the Blue Mountains, and drinking both Washington and Rioja wines! It’s a great idea for a road trip when the world is open again if you can’t get all the way to Spain!
I was so hoping someone would write about Viura! This is a grape I’m dying to try but we don’t get any white Rioja in Turkey. It sounds so intriguing and once again you’ve made a salad I’m dying to try! I hope you’ll post that recipe soon.
I was struggling with the salad and then…I thought why not sear up some lemon slices to brighten it! I hadn’t planned on posting that recipe, because I really just threw it together, but here it is for you! I sliced 1/2 a lemon into rounds then quartered them. Tossed them in a skillet with olive oil, salt, and pepper and sprinkled a little brown sugar on them to get them to carmelize. The salad was red leaf lettuce with a bit of spinach and a little radicchio. Topped that with the lemons, goat cheese, and sliced almonds, and then my dressing was olive oil, dijon mustard, honey, salt and pepper, and a little of the Viura.
We couldn’t agree more with you…the white wines from spain are so underrated and the Viura in Rioja in particular. Travelling to the region the first time, that was our “aha” wine moment!
I so enjoyed your Primer on this region and I love that it was your “aha” wine moment! I give new thanks to Rioja for that!
Viura?!!? Another grape with which I am completely UNfamiliar. Thanks for sharing. Now I have another wine to track down.
Cam, you have had Viura, just probably in a blend with bubbles! It is the Macabeo grape that is typically found in Cava! But, it is worth tracking it down in this version, still and aged, from Rioja!
I love that you have wrote about Viura Robin! It really is a fascinating grape that should be in our glasses more. Your food pairings look AMAZING (as always)! I’m inspired to have a Spanish night sometime soon. Hopefully I can find some Viura locally too! PS: Love the blog refresh!
Oh, I can’t wait for your Spanish night! I would love to hear about Viura that is being grown in Australia and how they are vinifying it!
PS. Thanks, I’m glad you like the new look! It keeps evolving depending on plug-ins LOL!
This tapas spread looks absolutely gorgeous! Loving the idea of the saffron poached cod – YUM. I totally agree with you re. Rioja white wines as well. And so cool to know that Valdermar has an estate in WA — I had no idea.
The Valdemar Estate in Walla Walla opened just a few years ago. We were so excited to visit. At the time they were just working on trials with Syrah in the area (I love the labels for these that feature all the geeky wine details that I love). We had a spectacular morning with Kaleigh Vrapi their hospitality manager. She gave us a tour of their sparkling winery and introduced us to Asst. Winemaker Devyani Gupta. Winemaker Marie-Eve Gilla was not in on this day (are you seeing a female-driven theme here? That made me extra happy).
Their winery is stunning and modern with beautiful views of the Blue Mountains. They do tastings with Tapas and have their wines from Rioja on the menu and available in addition to their Washington wines. The great thing is, they are not trying to make Spanish wines in Washington. They are there to explore Washington and make amazing wines of place and character there. When the world opens up, it is definitely a place to visit!
Thanks so much for the compliment on the cod, it was so good with this wine!
Valdemar was one of my first Rioja loves, so nice seeing them and that great label. Interesting discussion about the saffron cod dish pairing and I can see how that worked. I’ve grabbed brighter, no oak, no lees wines with dishes like this that end up overwhelming the dish. Super article and photos… now I’ve got Viura and Saffron on the brain!
Thanks Lynn! Since I have already visited Valdemar in Washington, I’m dreaming of getting to Spain to visit Bodegas Valdemar there. This wine seemed to have just the right balance to work with the dish. Thanks so much for the compliment!
Your saffron cod dish sounds quintessentially Spanish to me – and a lovely match with the Rioja Blanco. Happy to hear about Valdemar Estate in Walla Walla too – had no idea they were there and look forward to tasting a few of their wines!
If you get to Washington to visit Valdemar, allow a half-day to spend and enjoy their tasting room and terrace. Flights with tapas while enjoying some good company is the way to do this stunning winery. The Syrah is spectacular.
So excited to learn about Valdemar Estates – planning a trip to Walla Walla this spring and definitely will visit. Can’t wait to taste a Viura. Also copying your salad instructions. Yum!
The salad was unexpected and really good! They have so many wonderful wines to taste at Valdemar and the view is wonderful. Plan to spend some time, you likely won’t want to leave. I’m not sure what they are doing with their tasting room with the pandemic, but they do have a large outdoor patio that is stunning.
I love what you’re doing with video Robin. Great minds when it come to Viura huh? By the way when I was looking for my LdH Blanco Riserva, guess where I found some. Total Wine in Henderson! I need to try your Cod dish. It sounds great!
Thanks Martin! I love that you found that Viura in Henderson and at a Total wine! I should check through their list more often. I’ve been sticking to my local wine shop lately, and have been lucky to find some great wines. They have a wide enough list that I have covered February’s pieces with wines from them! Enjoy the cod! It’s so simple and delicious!
Definitely inspired to try some White Rioja now! And the cod dish sounds so good!
I want to explore White Rioja further, and since Martin has found a supplier across town from me! (Thanks Martin!), I might just be able to!