Known as Macabeo in much of Spain, where it is the most commonly planted vine, Viura in Rioja and Macabeu/Maccabéo in Roussillon, France, this is a grape that plays a central part in some of the most celebrated wines in both countries.
Macabeu came to southern France from Spain, and there is evidence to suggest that it was originally from the Middle East. It rose to modern prominence following the phylloxera outbreak in the late 19th century, when farmers in Rioja almost completely replaced old vines of Malavasía and Garnacha Blanca with Macabeu, which has a lower potential for oxidation than other Rioja varieties. It has the added benefits of being highly vigorous and budding late, thus avoiding spring frosts.
When picked early, growers in Roussillon will often use Macabeu as an ingredient in rosé or to lighten the colour of reds. Those that are picked later can be used as part of Roussillon’s VDN. In Languedoc, it is often blended with grapes such as Bourboulenc, Grenache Blanc and others to create the white wines of Minervois and Corbières. It is also often the main grape used in Rioja Blanco.
The grape generally has a high acidity when young, when it also has less flavour to it, but when picked later has a subtle floral character and low acidity.