Exploring Rueda’s Signature Grape – Verdejo

I am having such fun traveling around Spain with the intrepid #WorldWineTravel crew. This month we are visiting Castilla y Leon. I am also enrolled in the Spanish Wine Scholar class at the Wine Scholar Guild right now so the timing is perfect.

Rueda is the focus for me today and the grape that makes it famous, Verdejo. Rueda has been a DO since 1980 so early days in terms of Modern Spanish regions. It is the oldest DO in the region of Castilla y Leon. It is a 99% white wine area. The soils are gravel and stone with some limestone and sand. The climate is Continental and rainfall pretty consistent in the spring and the fall. The vineyards lie at about 700-800 meters above sea level. The grape varieties allowed in the DO for white wines are Verdejo, Sauvignon Blanc, Palomino Fino and Viura. While they make less than 1% of wines that aren’t white, they obtained the right to produce red and rose wines in 2008.

As you can see from the above map, the Duero River cuts through the Northern part of the area. While Verdejo reigns supreme today, this wasn’t always the case. In the past, a rancio or oxidative wine was created here that was a favorite of the Queen at the time. She protected the region. Phylloxera hit the area quite that in the 19thcentury, early 20th century. The vines were grubbed up and Palomino Fino was planted to make bulk wines. Until the 1970s this situation persisted. At that time, the Marques de Riscal from Rioja decided to plant white grapes in the region to make wine and the rest is history. Verdejo was the grape that he settled on and today is the most widely planted. Some 87% of the white grapes planted in Rueda are Verdejo. Most of the vineyards are bush trained. Rueda remains the country’s largest producer of white wines.

There are recent changes to the denomination names for wine styles as of 2019.

  1. Gran Vino de Rueda – vines at least 30 years old, max yield of 6,500 kg/ha
    (65% below DO maximum), beginning with 2020 vintage
  2. Vino de Pueblo – minimum 85% of grapes must come from village/municipality
    used on label
  3. Rueda Pálido – recovering a traditional wine style made via biological aging
    with a minimum of 3 years in oak
  4. Rueda Verdejo and Rueda Sauvignon will be eliminated and all wines labeled as only
    “Rueda” (2019)
  5. Rueda 50% of preferred varieties (Verdejo/Sauvignon Blanc)
  6. Rueda Espumoso 85% Verdejo (Brut Nature/Brut);
    50% Verdejo (Seco/Semi-Seco)
  7. Rueda Dorado Oxidatively aged using only approved
    white varieties.

The wine I tried was from Bodegas Ordonez called Nisia. It is imported by Regal Wines. The winemaker is Nacho Alvarez. It is made from old vines which grow in sandy soils and are ungrafted. The vines are dry famed and bush trained. These vineyards were not impacted by phylloxera. Verdejo is a very ancient grape in Spain planted by the Romans. The vienyards where this wine was made are about 80 years old. Verdejo usually produces lively wines with citrus and green notes. These wines are often served young but Ordonez uses a lot of barrel fermentation and sur lie winemaking techniques.

Many people compare Verdejo to Sauvignon Blanc. I find them not so similar but I can see how someone who likes Sauvignon Blanc could be pleased with a glass of Verdejo. Verdejo is quite minerally with lively acidity, citrus fruits and herbal notes. With age, it also develops more intense aromas and flavors. Some versions also do well with a hint of oak aging.

This Saturday, March 27th at 11 am ET, Lynn of Savor the Harvest and Allison of ADVineTURES will lead us in an exploration of the important region of Castilla y León which includes Bierzo, Cigales, Ribera del Duero, Rueda, and Toro, among others. Their invitation post is here. Follow the conversation and join us for this virtual trip to Spain. You can find us on Twitter using #worldwinetravel.

Check out what my fellow bloggers will share:

Co-host Allison of AdVINEtures declares Ribera del Duero: Spain’s Rising Star.

Co-host Lynn of Savor the Harvest introduces us to Unconventional in Castilla y Leon – Ismael Gozalo and MicroBio Wines.

Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla pairs Patatas a lo Pobre + Losada Bierzo 2017.

Steve of Children of the Grape explores Hemingway and the Plains of Spain.

Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm explains why Abadia Retuerta Seleccion Especial is indeed a Special Selection.

Terri at Our Good Life is Exploring Castilla y Leon Through Wine and Food.

David at Cooking Chat tempts us with his Steak Picado Recipe with Ribera del Duero Wine.

Jeff of Food Wine Click! reveals A Different Take on Castilla y Leon.

Martin of ENOFYLZ Wine Blog discusses Mesmerizing Mencia – The Star Grape of Bierzo; 2018 Raúl Pérez Ultreia St-Jacques.

Lisa The Wine Chef reveals Castilla y Leon, Home of Spain’s Best Kept Secret: Wine, Dine and Stay in an Luxe 12th Century Abbey Overlooking World-Class Vineyards.

Robin at Crushed Grape Chronicles shares Rueda and Verdejo Just Keep Rolling with the #1 White Wine in Spain!

Nicole at Somm’s Table tells us about A Phenomenal Feast at Emilio Moro.

Linda at My Full Wine Glass discusses Rueda Verdejo – A Crisp White Alternative to Sauvignon Blanc.

Susannah at Avvinare is Exploring Rueda’s Signature Grape, Verdejo.

Lauren at The Swirling Dervish shares Dominio del Pidio Albillo: Tasting an Unusual Spanish White Wine in Miami.

Gwendolyn at Wine Predator posts Cristina Forner Leads Marques de Cacerés: Her Verdejo from Rueda with Barbacoa Tacos.

19 comments

  1. Love that you decided to focus on Rueda for this virtual visit. When we were in the region in person, Verdejo was our unexpected discovery of that memorable trip.

  2. I am definitely out of the Verdejo loop and longing, desperately, to be in it! I’ll keep my eyes open, Susannah. And, as always, I learn so much from your posts. Thanks for sharing.

    • Hey Jeff, I started the Spanish Wine Scholar and they give us all the updates as part of the class so it’s good to know what’s happening in the region. So much great stuff. So excited by Spain.

  3. I want to find a Verdejo to try, it sounds like it has a lot to offer in that fresh acidic style with seafood!

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