Note from the author: There are 1,368 varieties covered in Wine Grapes by MW Jancis Robinson, MW Julia Harding, and Dr. Jose Vouillamoz. Let's try them all.
I pay careful attention to the wine that disappears first at a party. In large social gatherings, I'm less interested in complex tasting notes or mulling over winemaking practices, and more interested in what gets drained quickly amidst the chatter, good music, and laughs. When you have a mess of bottles open and one of them is emptied well in advance of the others, you know people liked it.
Based on multiple, very technical experiments in just these kinds of situations, I've discovered that the 2012 Beronia Viura is the perfect party wine. Three reasons:
#1: People have heard of Rioja. They think it is a red wine (often it is... but Rioja refers to the place, where red grapes are commonly grown—as are whites). When they see this white wine with RIOJA emblazoned across the front, they're confused/intrigued/think they're super drunk already and must be thinking of something else. Naturally, they reach for it to see what it's all about. What it's technically all about (according to our trusty tome, Wine Grapes) is the "often underestimated, widely grown variety that can make ageworthy whites as Viura in Rioja and Maccabeu in Roussillon." The book gives an appropriate nod to the serious, traditional, aged and oxidative styles of white Rioja, then continues, explaining, "varietal wines are typically lightly floral and relatively aromatic when young." Which brings us to reason number two...
#2: The young, 2012 Beronia Viura is gulpable. Super citrus-driven, there's tangerine, ripe red grapefruit, lemon and lime all jumping out of the glass... just enough brightly colored and familiar fruit to tell you at a boisterous party, "Hollerrr! I'm tasty wine!" but not so potent that it hogs your attention or distracts you from the attractive stranger across the room. The first sip is easy, not too light or bracing, not too heavy or rich... just right. The complementary fresh white flower notes and bite of bitter almond skin at the end make it not too simple, not too complex... just right. A nibble of cheese or handful of mixed nuts later, the Viura washes your mouth clean and gets you ready for a cool introduction: "Hello, stranger..."
#3: It's affordable. So affordable ($12!) that you can easily bring two bottles to the party. Although the first one is probably gone by now, you can pull the second out of your bag and walk a glass right over to your stranger. "This is a white Rioja," you begin.
Connection successfully made, love interest successfully piqued, party wine case successfully closed.
2012 Beronia Viura
The grape: Viura (a.k.a. Macabeo or Maccabeu)
The region: Rioja, Spain
The importer: San Francisco Wine Exchange, sample provided for review consideration.
The price: $12
About the Author: Stevie Stacionis is a wine writer and Certified Sommelier based in Oakland. She's currently drinking her way through the 1,368 varieties included in Wine Grapes. Follow her on Twitter @StevieStacionis and check out her snobbery-free wine videos at A Drinks With Friends TV.
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