Verdejo Grape: A Spanish Jewel Rediscovered
Verdejo, a venerable wine grape variety with roots tracing back to North Africa, found its sanctuary in the sun-drenched vineyards of Spain’s Rueda region. Originating in the 11th Century, Verdejo was almost lost to obscurity until the determined efforts of local winegrower Ángel Rodríguez Vidal resurrected its prominence in the mid-20th century, earning him the Cross of the Order of Agricultural Merit.
The success story of Verdejo in Rueda can be attributed to the climatic conditions and soil profiles that grace this region. The grape thrives in the warmth of the Spanish sun, with temperatures often reaching 28–30 °C (82–86 °F) in September. However, the strategic harvesting at night ensures a gentler entry into the cellar at cooler temperatures, reducing oxidation and preserving the purity of the grape’s character.
Verdejo’s aromatic profile is a seductive symphony, a result of the grape’s expressive nature. The wines emanate soft and alluring fragrances, inviting the senses with a bouquet that hints at the grape’s rich history. The influence of French oenologist Émile Peynaud, collaborating with Marqués de Riscal in the 1970s, ushered in a fresher style of white wine based on Verdejo. This innovation led to the recognition of Rueda as a Denominación de Origen (DO) in 1980.
Verdejo wines, designated “Rueda Verdejo,” proudly showcase the grape’s versatility. These wines must contain a minimum of 85% Verdejo, often presenting as 100% Verdejo expressions. The remaining blend typically features Sauvignon blanc or Macabeo, adding nuanced layers to the final product.
Tasting Verdejo wines is an experience in itself. The palate is greeted with a delightful interplay of softness and full-bodied richness. The careful night harvesting ensures a lower temperature for the grapes, preserving their vibrancy and minimizing oxidation. The result is a wine that embodies the essence of the Rueda terroir and Verdejo’s unique character.
In conclusion, Verdejo has transcended its near-extinction, emerging as a Spanish jewel celebrated for its aromatic allure and captivating taste. Rooted in the ancient soils of Rueda, this grape continues to tell a story that spans centuries, inviting wine enthusiasts to savor the richness of history in every sip.