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Xarel·lo: From Cava workhorse to white wine thoroughbred

For a long time lost in an ocean of nondescript Cava, Xarel·lo is now emerging as one of Spain’s most lauded native white grapes. Is it Spain’s answer to white Burgundy? Its more passionate advocates like to argue so.

Like many Mediterranean countries, Spain tends to eschew international grape varieties in favour of its vast wealth of indigenous plantings. Precise numbers are hard to pin down across its many regions, but Spain’s register of commercial vine varieties (Colección de Variedades de Vid) near Madrid records some 235 distinct varieties planted, of which about 15 are table grapes.

According to the most recent data from OIV (International Organisation of Vine and Wine), 88% of total production comes from a mere 20 varieties, with Tempranillo and Airén together accounting for more than 40% of total plantings – much Airén is destined for the production of Brandy de Jerez in the far south.

Scroll down to see Fintan Kerr’s selection of 10 excellent Xarel·lo still whites to try

However, it’s so often true that some of the grapes flying beneath the radar offer a more detailed glimpse into the individuality of Spain and its varied regions – in some cases offering extraordinary value in the process. One of the best examples of this is the white grape Xarel·lo.

Kerr’s selection: 10 excellent Xarel·lo still whites

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