Viura is a very popular Spanish wine grape, though it is often quite misunderstood and arguably not fully appreciated. It has a number of different names, depending on where in the world it’s grown. It is mostly commonly used in white Rioja and Cava, and in these instances the name “Viura” is unlikely to appear prominently, if at all, on the label. Let’s try to establish a few facts about this overlooked grape variety, so that we can better understand it – and find some great examples of Viura wines in the process!
Name: “Viura” or “Macabeo”?
Strictly speaking, the grape is actually called Macabeo. Alternative spellings include Macabeu (its Catalan spelling) and Maccabéo, when it is grown in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France. The name “Viura” is most commonly used in the Rioja region, where it is the most widely planted grape for making white Rioja (or Rioja blanco). In this case, the wine will be usually be labelled as a Rioja wine, with the Viura grape at best a small note on the back label. An interesting exception is Arnegui Viura Blanco from Pagos del Rey, who clearly label the wine as a Viura varietal. Outside of Rioja, the wine will generally be referred to as a “Macabeo”, such as Mas Rodo Macabeo from the Penedès region.
What does Viura taste like?
Viura is quite a versatile grape, and can make a range of wines including dry white wine, sweet wine and sparkling wine. Its typical flavour profile can range from fresh and floral to more weightier flavours including dried nuts and honey. How the Viura wine tastes will largely depend on where it is grown, when it is harvested (earlier harvested Viura will give the lighter, fresher flavour profile) and the style of wine being made.
Where does Viura grow?
The Viura grape is originally from Spain, with its spiritual homeland being the northern regions such as Rioja. It has been adopted on either side of the Pyrenees mountains, notably the southeastern French region of Languedoc-Roussillon. It can also be found in Spanish regions including Jumilla and Valencia.
White wines from the Rioja region can be fully or partly made from the Viura grape. Viura is a great blending grape, and can contribute to a wine capable of surprising ageing. Allende Blanco 2012 is a blend of Viura and Malvasia, aged in oak and capable of quite a lot more ageing time in the bottle. It has received very strong critics’ scores, including 91+ from Robert Parker and 94 from Guía Peñín. This wine falls on the more full-bodied scale, displaying a good mouthfeel and more complexity than a younger example.
Viura is very popular as a blending grape in Cava, too, though it is referred to as “Macabeo” instead. Some producers make Cava from 100% Macabeo, such as Artadi Cava Brut Vintage. Here, the Viura grape has produced a vintage Cava of real character. Its time in the bottle has added some complexity and the wine will give some mature notes of honeyed fruit, nut and yeast, while maintaining a good backbone of acidity for freshness.