We recently tasted several Verdejo wines from Spain’s Rueda region. These wines are crisp and fresh with citrus and mineral notes. They are a pleasant alternative to Sauvignon Blanc and can be paired with food in much the same way. Most of them are inexpensive and fun to drink. We provide reviews of wines from the following producers: Bodegas Angel Rodriguez, Garcí Grande, Hermanos Lurton, Isaac Fernandez, Pagos del Rey, Palacios del Borno, Pedro Escudero, Prado Rey, Bodegas Protos and Javier Sanz.
Verdejo is indigenous to Rueda, but was probably brought to the region from Africa during the Moorish occupation. It was traditionally used to make an oxidized, sherry like wine, but in the 1970s the French enologist Emile Peynaud helped Marqués de Riscal of Rioja develop a fresher non-oxidative style, fermented in stainless steel which immediately gained favor with the consumer, leading to dramatic increases in plantings and harvests (see graph).
The D.O. Rueda is located in Castilla y Leon and is made up of 72 municipalities, which are located in the south of the province of Valladolid, west of Segovia and north of Ávila. Rueda has 12,853 ha of vines, 95 percent of which are white varieties, mostly Verdejo, Sauvignon Blanc, Viura and Palomino Fino. Verdejo alone accounts for 86 percent of the total grape production of Rueda. reflecting how well suited it is to the region and its hot summers and high diurnal temperature variations.
The wines we tasted are all Rueda Verdejo, which must contain a minimum of 85% Verdejo. However, several other wine types are made in Rueda, including Rueda Blanco, which must contain at least 50% Verdejo, Rueda Sauvignon Blanc, Rueda Espumoso, which must be 85% Verdejo for the Brut, and Rueda Dorado, a sherry-like wine. These latter two types are rarely exported.
Rueda Verdejo is usually made in a fresh, crisp style. It’s often picked at night when the grapes are cool, then briefly macerated, followed by a long, slow fermentation in steel tanks. The rigorous rules of the Rueda Consejo Regulador ensures that Rueda Verdejo is of good drinking quality whatever the brand. It requires relatively low yields for Verdejo: 3.6 tons/acre for bush vines and 4.5 tons/acre for trellised vines.
Angel Rodriguez is one the leading producers of Verdejo. A pioneer of the variety in Rueda, he was awarded the Cross of the Civil Order of Agricultura from King Juan Carlos for his contribution to Spanish viticulture and for re-establishing the Verdejo variety’s prominence in Rueda. His Verdejo, Martinsancho, is produced from a deep gravel vineyard of traditional head-trained and dry farmed vines replanted in the 1970s. Importer: Classical Wines, Seattle, WA
Angel Rodriguez 2012 Martinsancho Rueda ($14) 90+ The 2012 Martinsancho offers attractive aromas of citrus, pear and herbs with floral notes. It is ripe and flavorful on the palate with good acidity and viscosity and freshness on the finish. Undoubtedly one of the finest Verdejos on the market.
Bodegas Garcí Grande, part of the Hispanobodegas group, has 120 ha under contract in Rueda, planted to Verdejo, Sauvignon Blanc, and Viura, in addition to some red varieties. It produces over 100 thousand cases annually. The Verdejo grapes are cold macerated prior to fermentation, and the lees are stirred after fermentation. Shown here, the Rueda de los Doce Linajes, which is on the wine label, showing the shields of the 14th century noble houses that governed the city of Soria, located on the Duero River in Castilla y León. Importer: USA Wines West, Sausalito CA
Bodegas Garcí Grande 2012 Doce Linajes Verdejo Rueda ($16) 88 Fresh lime citrus and dried herbal scents. Very bright and fruit forward on the attack with lingering green apple and fennel flavors. A bit light on the mid-palate but very, very long and flavorful on the finish. 100% Verdejo.
Hermanos Lurton. François Lurton worked at Moët Chandon before becoming the director of his father’s Bordeaux estate, André Lurton, in 1985. He then set up a partnership with his brother Jacques and in 1992 established Hermanos Lurton in La Seca in the province of Valladolid in Spain’s Castilla y Leion region to make white wines. In addition they established vineyards and wineries in Argentina, Chile and the Languedoc in France. The Rueda vineyard consists of 30 hectares. Importer: Winesellers Ltd., Skokie IL
Hermanos Lurton 2012 Verdejo Rueda ($12) 89 Perfumed, stone fruit and citrus fruit shows on the nose, followed by a mineral laden attack and lush, sweet fruit with superb balancing acidity, finishing long. Delicious. A blend of 85% Verdejo, 10% Sauvignon Blanc, and 5% Viura (Macabeo) fermented in oak and aged on the lees in stainless steel. An incredible value.
Isaac Fernandez Selección. Isaac Fernandez is best known for his superb Ribera del Duero wines that he crafts at Mariano Garcia’s winery Mauro as well as on his own. He produces Egeo in partnership with a modern Rueda winery located just south of the Duero River with 80+ ha of vineyards. Importer: Grapes of Spain, Lorton VA
Isaac Fernandez Selección 2012 Egeo Verdejo Rueda ($13) 88 Minerals, yellow flowers, and a touch of dried herbs grace the bouquet of this pleasant drinking wine. With chamomile flowers on the palate, this wine has subtle flavor complexity with an herbal note that picks up on the finish.
Pagos del Rey is part of the Félix Solís Ramos Avantis family conglomerate, which acquired the Rueda winery in 2004; the winery has the capacity to produce 4 million liters of wine annually and accounts for about 27% of Rueda’s total annual production. Félix Solís Ramos (pictured here) is CEO of the company. Importer: Luneau USA, Westport CT
Pagos del Rey 2012 Blume Verdejo Rueda ($11) 87 Medium straw, green-tinged. Minerals, dried flowers and herbs with notes of almond and olive show on the nose and are mirrored by the flavors. Quite a savory wine with bright, almost aggressive, acidity that’s focused, chalky dry, and a tad bitter on the mid-palate but long and expressive on the finish. A 100% Verdejo wine, the fruit is picked at night to preserve freshness and macerated on the skins for up to 8 hours.
Palacio de Bornos. Created in 1870, today the 5th generation of the Sanz family still manages this important Rueda winery located in La Seca, including 200 ha of vineyards in Rueda, Pollos and La Seca. Palacio de Bornos continues to carry out viticultural research programs to identify the best clones, planting methods, and canopy management. In addition to the wine tasted here, Palacio de Bornos makes several other cuvées, including oak-aged, old vine, and sparkling. Since 2009 the winemaker has been Pilar García del Pino who previously made wine at Bodegas Garcí Grande. Importer: Kysela Pere et Fils, Winchester, VA
Palacio de Bornos 2012 Verdejo Rueda ($11) 89 Yellow straw. It is richly aromatic, showing passion fruit, Clementine citrus and minerals that carry over to the soft, full palate with a touch of lanolin. 100% Verdejo.
Bodegas Pedro Escudero. Pedro Escudero was born and grew up among the vines of Rueda and has spent much of life caring for his 32 ha of stony, estate vineyards at Pago de Fuente Elvira. He founded the winery in 2002 with his wife Paula. All his wines are made from estate fruit. Importer: Grapes of Spain, Lorton VA
Bodegas Pedro Escudero 2012 Fuente Elvira Verdejo Rueda ($16) 90 Yellow gold. The Fuente Elvira reveals a rich smoky, toasted oak nose, but the palate opens up to also show deeply flavored pear and melon. It’s full and round with good acidity and richness of flavor.
Bodegas Pedro Escudero 2012 Valdelainos Verdejo Rueda ($14) 90 Pale yellow. Valdelainos is a beautifully balanced Verdejo with dried flowers, pear and vanilla bean showing on the nose. While subtly flavored, it has nice roundness in the mouth complemented by bright acidity that persists on the finish.
Bodegas Pedro Escudero 2013 Fuente Milano Verdejo Viura Rueda ($11) 88 Fuente Milano is a simple, pleasing wine revealing notes of lemon and lime citrus, ripe apple and pear, minerals and a hint of green banana. It’s clean with good extract.
Prado Rey. Currently owned by the Cremades family, the Prado Rey estate in Ribera del Duero traces its history back to 1503. Agronomist/owner Javier Cremades recently built a new winery in Rueda to make quality Verdejo and Sauvignon Blanc. Importer: Monsieur Touton, New York NY
Prado Rey 2012 Verdejo Vendimia Seleccionada Rueda ($12) 89 Medium yellow straw. Chamomile flowers, casaba melon, minerals and a hint of tangerine zest on the nose. Complex and appealing, these aromas are reflected on the nicely flavored attack, but they fade away on the mid-palate, leaving a stony mineral sensation accented by citric acidity, almond and and herbal tea notes. Finishes with good length, very dry and chalky.
Bodegas Protos. While most famous for its pioneering efforts in the Ribera del Duero DO, Protos also makes Verdejo based wines at its La Seca winery and vineyard near Valladolid. The 800 m high vineyard has alluvial stony soils. José Serrano Carlos Guzman has been the lead winemaker at Bodegas Protos since 1999. He’s a graduate of the L’Ecole Nationale Superieure Agronomique in Montpellier. Protos works with 12 different clonal selections of Verdejo in the search of the highest quality. Importer: Winebow, New York NY
Protos 2012 Verdejo Rueda ($14) 90 Attractive lemon and tangerine citrus aromas. Good depth and richness of citrus and yellow flowers flavor on the palate with excellent balance and length. The wine has good acidity and freshness.
Javier Sanz. Javier is the 4th generation of his family to make wine at his 104 ha vineyard in Rueda. Villa Narcisa is his flagship brand, and annual production is over 8 thousand cases for the Villa Narcisa Verdejo. In addition he makes a top cuvée called Colección V, not tasted here. The winery is located in La Seca, about 35 km from Valladolid. Importer: T. Edward Wines, New York NY
Javier Sanz 2012 Verdejo Villa Narcisa Rueda ($13) 89 The Javier Sanz Verdejo is beautifully balanced with fragrant lemon citrus, almond, and stony minerals. It has good acidity and freshness along with ripe fruit and a very pleasing, lingering finish. Made from 40+ year old bush vines.
Mike Potashnik and Don Winkler