Monday, March 4, 2024

Rueda Wine: 5 Important Facts to Know

             An inhospitable terroir allows only grapes & grains to grow in the harsh Rueda

The last three blogs have discussed the wines of Spain’s Rioja, Ribera del Duero and Toro wine regions.   Today we move to the final wine district in the quartet of northern Spain wine regions that Wine-Knows travelers will be visiting this autumn, the Rueda.  The first three wine regions are known for their red wines.  The Rueda, however, is all about white wine.  Below are five facts a wine lover visiting the region (or simply drinking these high QPR wines at home) should know.

1.  The Verdejo grape put Rueda on the world’s wine map. 

The Rueda is home to the largest number of Verdejo vines in the world.  98% of Rueda’s wines are white and the majority of them come from the Verdejo grape.   Research has shown that Verdejo arrived in Spain from North Africa in the 11th century.  It gradually made its way north to the Rueda after adapting in the vineyards of Spain’s south.

Today 4 out of every 10 wine bottles sold in Spain is made from Verdejo and most of it comes from the Rueda. 

          2.  Verdejo wine is a light to medium bodied aromatic wine with the                              following characteristics:

          ~ Citrus (lemon, lime, grapefruit)

          ~ Stone fruit (peach, apricot)

          ~ Tropical (pineapple, melon, mango)

          ~ Herbs (licorice, grass)

Well made Verdejo, unlike many white wines, can often age beautifully for 5-10 years developing rich textures and nutty nuances in addition to its fruit-centric tastes. 

             Stones absorb the heat during the day & warm the vines during cold nights 

3.  Rueda’s terroir forces grapevines to work hard.

Like the adjacent Toro wine region, Rueda is located on the same 2,000-3,000 foot plateau where the harsh landscape is wild and the soil is low in nutrients.  On the other hand, this higher altitude means cooler temperatures during the area’s extreme summers.  Plants are forced to work hard to survive so only grains and grape vines grow in Rueda’s inhospitable terroir.   

Rueda’s stony soils provide a great drainage system for winter rain to seep deep into the earth.  In order to live during the hot summers the grape vines must send their roots downward through the earth to seek water and nutrients.  Traversing many layers, the struggling vines bring back to the plant complex nutrients which translate into complex wines.    

The Duero River helps moderate the heat of summer and cold of winter so it’s no surprise the finest wines are made from vineyards located along the Duero’s banks.

           Wine-Knows has a harvest appointment at Menade to taste their high-scoring wines

           4.  Rueda's wine laws effect what's in your wine glass.

Rueda received official status from the Spanish Government (D.O.) as a unique region with noteworthy wines in 1980.  In order for Rueda to appear on a wine label, it must contain a minimum of 50% Verdejo.   Wines labeled “Ruedo Verdejo” have a higher bar in that they must have a minimum of 85% Verdejo grapes.  Many Ruedo Verdejo, however, are made entirely from the Verdejo variety.

The D.O. wine laws also permit blending with Sauvignon Blanc, along with Palomino, Virua, Viognier and Chardonnay.  That being said, Verdejo D.O. must be a minimum of 50% of all Ruedas made.


5.  The Rueda also grows some red grapes for red wine.

Up until the end of the 19th century when the vineyard bug phylloxera destroyed most of the vines throughout Europe, the Rueda region was known for its red wines.   It wasn’t until after the phylloxera pandemic that white grape vines were planted.  The Rueda, like its western neighbor Toro and eastern border Ribera del Duero, grows Tempranillo.   Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Garnacha are also permitted by Rueda’s D.O. laws.

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