Macabeo: The Versatile Mediterranean Grape

Dive into the world of Macabeo, an enticing white grape variety that hails from the sun-drenched vineyards of Spain. Known for its aromatic allure and versatile nature, Macabeo forms the backbone of some of the finest white and sparkling wines from the Iberian Peninsula, showcasing an array of styles that reflect its Mediterranean roots.

A Brief History

Macabeo, also known as Viura in the Rioja region and Maccabéo in Southern France, has been grown in Spain for centuries. Its historical origins are speculated to be in the eastern region of Spain, in the areas of Catalonia and Valencia. With time, it spread across other parts of Spain, becoming a significant contributor to the country’s viticultural landscape.


Macabeo is a resilient grape that thrives in hot climates and withstands drought conditions, making it well-suited to Spain’s arid landscapes. The vine buds late, reducing the risk of frost damage, and has a high yield. In the winery, Macabeo’s relatively neutral profile offers winemakers a blank canvas for expressing various winemaking techniques and terroir influences.

Flavour Profile

Macabeo wines generally exhibit a light to medium body with moderate acidity. Aromatically, they often show notes of green fruits such as apple and pear, complemented by floral hints and sometimes an intriguing note of beeswax or honey. In warmer climates or when fully ripe, it can develop more tropical fruit flavors.

Different Styles of Wine

Macabeo wines range from simple, refreshing whites to complex, age-worthy styles. It’s notably the primary grape in Spain’s renowned sparkling wine, Cava, contributing freshness and delicacy to the blend. In Rioja, where it’s known as Viura, it can produce both crisp, young white wines and rich, barrel-aged versions that gain complexity with time.

Wine Making and Maturation Options

Winemaking techniques greatly influence the character of Macabeo wines. Young, unoaked styles are typically fermented in stainless steel to retain their fresh fruit character. However, for more complex styles, particularly in Rioja, the wine may undergo fermentation and aging in oak barrels, gaining additional flavors and a creamy texture. Some winemakers also use skin contact or lees aging to enhance the wine’s body and complexity.

Important Regions

The most prominent regions for Macabeo are in Spain, especially Catalonia, where it’s a key component in Cava production, and Rioja, where it’s known as Viura. Valencia and Navarra also grow notable quantities. Beyond Spain, Macabeo is grown in France’s Roussillon region, where it often goes by the name Maccabéo and is used in the production of white and fortified wines.

Food Pairing Suggestions

Macabeo’s food-pairing versatility matches its wide stylistic range. Crisp, young Macabeo pairs well with light seafood dishes, salads, and chicken, while oak-aged or more complex styles can stand up to richer dishes like grilled fish, creamy risottos, and white meats. Sparkling Cava is incredibly versatile at the table, complementing everything from appetizers to a range of main courses.

Embrace the Mediterranean spirit with Macabeo, a wine that captures the warmth of Spanish vineyards and the creative spirit of its winemakers, promising a journey of delightful discovery with every sip.

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Written by

Bernard Marr has a deep passion for wine. He has written hundreds of articles on wine, including features for Forbes, covering wine-making and industry trends. Away from the world of wine, Bernard is a world-renown business and technology futurist. He is the award winning author of over 20 best-selling books and has a combined audience of nearly 4 million people across his social media channels and newsletters.

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