Spring Whites That Deserve the Hype: Rueda

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Call it what you’d like: An old routine, a daily pattern, your go-to basics. You’re stuck in a rut, and it can happen with your white wine choices, too. It’s ok, though, we can get through this together. Shake awake your sleepy palate with value-packed white wines from Rueda in Spain. They’re fresh and dazzling – fruity without going bonkers with remarkable acidity and mineral-spiked goodness. Savvy wine drinkers weary of overpaying for the same old same-old, Rueda Verdejo is your new best friend.

The Rueda wine region is part of Spain’s beloved Duero Valley. It’s a true plateau, measuring eight hundred meters above sea level where searing hot summers force the vines to dig extra deep for a drink of water. No pain no gain is equally true for grapes, and these tough roots go through some serious training in Rueda’s terroir. We’re talking calcium and magnesium rich soils (which we can thank for all of those mineral flavors), including gravel, stone, and a smattering of hilltop limestone.
A Master of Her Trade

White wine lovers, take note: Rueda is the white wine that Spaniards most often pour or order, topping all other white wine consumption within the country. Rueda is the only region in Spain to specialize in producing white wines from the Verdejo grape, and since 1994, production has increased ten-fold in order to meet the demands of a thirsty market. Eighty-six percent of grapes grown in the Rueda are Verdejo, along with Viura, Sauvignon Blanc, and Palomino, which are used as faithful blending agents. If you see Rueda D.O. (Denominación de Origen) on the label, it means that your blend contains at least 85% Verdejo. Oftentimes it will be more. When you see Rueda Verdejo on the label, the blend must contain 100% Verdejo. While most Rueda wines are light and easy-drinking, some producers ferment in barrels and age on lees. That’s how fun and versatile the Verdejo grape can be! 
 
The Cinderella of Wine Regions
 
Though Rueda has been making wine for centuries, it received its matching glass slipper in the early 1970s when accomplished Spanish wine producer Marqués de Riscal sought the perfect place to create crisp, dry white wines. By 1980 the area secured Denominación de Origen status, and the wines have been growing in popularity ever since. Rueda and Verdejo are inseparable, and the grape’s flavor is unlike any other white wine grape in the world. What sets it apart, besides the full-bodied citrus and tropical melon flavors, is what every wine lover (and pairing-seeking foodie) craves: killer acidity that will match a mignonette as well as it will zip right through a rich butter sauce. You’ll also find undercurrents of lightly smoked almonds and Brazil nuts wrapped in floral notes. The icing on your glass: These wines consistently overdeliver in the value category, generally falling in the $10-20 range.
 
The Court of Opinion
 
Rueda wines have devoted supporters not just in Spain, but around the world. Some key quotes from palates that matter: 
 
“Rueda Verdejo wines are crisp, dry, mineral driven with hints of citrus, like lemon and grapefruit zest, citrus blossoms as well as white peach and pineapple. These wines pair perfectly with a wide range of food such as salads, shellfish, light fish preparations and fruit dishes. For anyone looking to try something new and who usually likes Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio, this would be a wine region and varietal to try!” – Alex LaPratt, RyR Sommelier Ambassador, Master Sommelier and Owner of Atrium DUMBO in Brooklyn, NY.
 
“Rueda possesses the unique ability to provide more than one style of Verdejo. The region produces both fresh, vibrant, and light whites, as well as beautiful Verdejos fermented in oak to provide depth and complexity. Pairing these Rueda wines is easy! Raw or grilled vegetables are PERFECT! Would also consider lighter fish and shellfish." - Charles Ford, RyR Sommelier Ambassador and Wine Director at The Bristol in Chicago.
 
“White wine drinkers that like aromatic and bright wines will easily see the beauty of Verdejo.” – Joey Campanella, General Manager and Sommelier, Fork Restaurant in Philadelphia. (Read more here.)
 
“A lot of what Verdejo offers is concentration. It has thick skin so I like the texture of the wine with our food. There tends to be an acceptance to absorbing flavor as opposed to cutting through it.” – Yana Volfson, Sommelier, Cosme in New York City. (Read more here.)
 
“Rueda Verdejo has such an amazingly vibrant smell and flavor that make me happy. It’s like a field full of butterflies, you have to be really cynical not to smile when you find it. The aromas of lemon, lime, hints of tropical or stone fruit, and the fresh, bracing palate – but often with more richness than other similarly crisp wines – make for a really delightful combination.” – Jake Kosseff, Partner, Miller’s Guild in Seattle. (Read more here.)
 
 Pairing Rueda: Do or Don’t
 
Rueda wines are an ideal mealtime companion, but they pair just as nicely with a couch as they do a dinner table. Doing some grazing during happy hour? Have a glass of Rueda with a dish of almonds, some warm black and green olives, and a few chunks of sharp cheese. When it’s time for Sunday brunch, you’ll want Rueda to bring out the best in your goat cheese omelet. Starter dishes like fresh tomato salad with balsamic reduction also call for Rueda. And while seafood paella and ratatouille are obvious choices, don’t be afraid to experiment with grilled swordfish or spiced lamb. Yum!
 
For more information on what sommeliers and chefs are saying about or pairing with Rueda, visit riberaruedawine.com

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