Rueda Verdejo

Roo-eh-da Vehr-day-ho

Parents & Origin: Indigenous (North Africa)
Grape: Small, spherical, light green skin
Flavors: Lime, green melon, grapefruit pith, fennel, white peach
Notable Regions: Spain
Sweetness: Dry
Body: Light
Tannins: None
Acidity: Medium-high
ABV: 12-14%

The History of Rueda Verdejo

The Verdejo grape originated in North Africa more than a millennium ago. In the 11th century, it was brought to the Iberian peninsula by the legendary Mozarabs who helped repopulate the Duero basin in northwestern Spain during the reign of King Alfonso VI. This basin is home to the Castile and León community, which also houses the Rueda DO winemaking region.

For much of its history, Rueda was one of the lesser known Spanish wine regions due to its lack of international tourism attraction. The Verdejo grape, despite its longstanding presence in the area, was also overlooked in favor of other grapes such as Palomino. Palomino was often made into fortified, sherry-like wines that were not highly regarded in the international community.

Despite these challenges, the Rueda region was revived, in no small part due to a renewed appreciation of the Verdejo grape. In the 20th century, famed Riojan winemaker Marqués de Riscal arrived on the scene to help begin this rapidly spreading trend. Riscal worked with renowned French enologist Émile Peynaud, and together the pair began to recognize Rueda’s potential for high quality Verdejo wines.

The Riscal-Peynaud duo began producing a crisp, unoaked white wine style that impressed the wine community, leading Rueda to be granted Denominación de Origen (DO) status in 1980. Since then, many other winemakers have established their own variations of Rueda Verdejo. Dry and aromatic white wines were already on the rise around this time, so it was perfect timing for this relatively new wine to burst on the scene and gain the appreciation it has today.

Interesting Fact: In the early days of winemaking in Rueda, red wines were much more common than whites. However, outbreaks of phylloxera in the late 19th century devastated most of the red wine production in the area, shifting its reputation to a white wine-producing area, something that has lasted through the present day.

Rueda Verdejo Food Pairings

Due to its fresh and fruity flavors, Rueda Verdejo is an accessible wine that pairs well with a wide variety of foods.

The Best Rueda Verdejo Food Pairings

Rueda Verdejo pair perfectly with an array of food such as shellfish, fresh cheeses, vegetables, spicy foods, and some salads. The wine can also be enjoyed without food as well, as it is refreshing and thirst-quenching in any weather and on any occasion.

Food Pairings to Avoid with Rueda Verdejo

Due to its lightness, Rueda Verdejo is not ideal for heavy dishes such as beef, pork, lamb, or anything with a rich sauce.

Rueda Verdejo Tasting Notes

Rueda Verdejo offers a light and refreshing body with medium-high acidity and a dry flavor profile. Shining a pale straw color in the glass, Rueda Verdejo offers aromas and flavors of lime, lemon, melon, grapefruit, grass, fennel, peach, and citrus blossom. With a bit of bottle aging, the wine can take on secondary taste characteristics such as toasted almonds, with additional acidity and and a richer texture.

Rueda Verdejo's Aging Potential

Like most white wines, Rueda Verdejo does not undergo an oak aging period, with temperature-controlled fermentation preferred to bring out fresh, fruity, and light flavors. Unlike most whites, however, Rueda Verdejo’s flavors can be benefit from a period of bottle aging. This can bring out secondary flavor characteristics such as toasted almonds, improve the texture of the wine, and also enhance the more bitter flavors of grass and fennel to balance out the initial fruitiness.

Rueda's Unique Terroir

The Verdejo grape is grown in a few other areas of Spain, with one example being the famed Rioja region. However, the original Rueda area has a unique terroir that features both rocky and sandy soils that are rich in limestone and iron. The long-lasting vines also have the benefit of phylloxera resistance. These factors, plus the addition of optimal sunshine, allows Rueda’s Verdejo vines to yield ideal grapes for fruit flavors. Furthermore, the grapes are harvested at night to preserve freshness and prevent oxidation, making Rueda the perfect region for making Verdejo wines.

Rueda DO Regulations

The Rueda DO has many specifications for Rueda Verdejo and other wines made in the region. All wines labeled “Rueda” must be made of at least 50% Verdejo grapes, but specifically “Rueda Verdejo” wines must be comprised of 85% Verdejo. This is almost never a problem for local producers, however, as most wines are simply made of 100% varietal Verdejo.

Rueda Verdejo in a Nutshell

Since its ancient origins in Northern Africa, Rueda Verdejo was transplanted to Spain and, after a long period of obscurity, is finally getting its due as a delicious and versatile dry white wine. A good bottle of Rueda Verdejo will delight with fresh and fruity flavors of lime, melon, lemon, grapefruit, grass, fennel, and peach. Pair a bottle of Rueda Verdejo with shellfish, fresh cheeses, vegetables, spicy foods, or salad—or just enjoy it on its own on a hot day!