Macabeo is a white wine grape varietal most commonly connected with Spain. In the north-east Catalan region it is also known as 'Viura' and 'Macabeu'. It is widely planted in the Rioja wine region, along with the 'Cava' sparkling wine producing area south of Barcelona, and in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France. The planted vineyard area of Macabeo in Spain is around 32,000 hectares, with France having planted around 2600ha in 2012.
The grape is predominantly used to make youthful white wines with sharp acidity, ideal for early consumption or blending with other varietals, both red and white. It is often the main grape of white Rioja and is sometimes blended in small amounts with Tempranillo and red Garnacha, both in unoaked and oaked versions.

 

The varietal was introduced into Rioja after the phylloxera epidemic, where it largely replaced Malvasia and Garnacha Blanca, partially because of the ability of its wines to better withstand oxidation. Some producers of white Rioja make superior wines (e.g. Reserva and Gran Reserva) - which are subjected to extended ageing that can be decades, resulting in a highly distinctive and aromatic wine.
Macabeo is traditionally blended with Xarel•lo and Parellada to make sparkling Cava, the best known sparkling wine of Spain. Both still and sparkling wines from the Macabeo are dry, lifted acidity, and have notes of delicate wildflowers and bitter almonds and best consumed young.
Macabeo is a sturdy and vigorous white skinned grape varietal that is particularly well suited to warm Mediterranean climates. Macabeo was also once well established in North Africa, although its origins are believed to be Middle Eastern. Macabeo also conveniently buds late which makes it less likely to be harmed by frost. Although prone to rot, the dry regions in which the grape successfully grows, seldom suffer fungal disease issues.
In Spain, Macabeo white wines of Rioja can be subject to barrel fermentation and extensive lees handling, and subsequently developing wines with a tight, lemony palate. Conversely, under the guidance of traditional techniques it can undergo extended ageing in neutral wood, bringing an oxidative complexity and appealing texture.
This historic grape varietal is also known as Macabeu and Maccabéo in Languedoc-Roussillon  areas of in southern France. Where it is also particularly well suited in the elevated vineyard areas of Minervois and Corbières. Where it is blended with a number of other southern French grape varietals including Bourboulenc and Grenache Blanc to give ample wines with a mouth-coating viscosity. In parts of Spain, it is also used to soften intense reds, with up to 10% allowed, and up to 30% in rosé wines. It may also serve as a key element in Roussillon - where late picked Macabeo is used in a unique fortified wine (vin doux naturel).