Rueda is one of the two great white wine producing areas of Spain (the other being Rias Brixas), and as such its fairly unique in this land of red wine. Its well known for its fresh, fruity and food friendly Verdejo and Sauvignon blanc based white wines, but there is also a burgeoning red wine industry and a very fortified wine business that is just ticking over.
Consejo Regulador de la
Denominación de Origen Rueda
Post: C/ Real,8
47490 Rueda (Valladolid, Spain)
Phone: (+34) 983 868248
Fax: (+34) 983 868135
Rueda is northwest of Madrid on the Spanish high plains. It sits between Ribera del Duero and Toro regions to the south of Valladolid.
The indigenous Verdejo is king here with 66% of all production in the region during 2006. Other white varieties include Viura, Sauvignon Blanc and a small amount of Palomino from Rueda’s legacy as a fortified wine region.
Red wine is a relatively new thing here, and is made under the Vino de la Tierra Medina del Campo. Production has grown over the last 15 years from almost zero to 12% of total production. Tempranillo is the biggest contender with Merlot, Garnacha, Cabernet Sauvignon bringing up the rear.
Way back in the past Rueda was known for it’s solera based fortified wines, in fact they still have a loyal following in some areas of Europe that keeps the soleras going today. As such, loads of Palamino was planted, along with the local Verdejo. The thing about verdejo is that it oxidizes very rapidly, so it is perfect for producing oxidative style wines without years of sitting in old wood in the dark.
These days however most drinkers want something fresh without oxidation. And we have plenty of technology that helps the winemaker keep the grapes and juice away from oxygen. One hundred years ago they didn’t bother and just made generosos. The world moved away from these styles for the most part and the wine known as Rueda faded in time. Vines were pulled, other crops planted and verdejo was almost lost to the history books.
One of the saving graces for the region is said to be one small vineyard of 200 year old verdejo vine owned by one Angel Rodriguez that had been tended by his family for as long as anyone can remember. In the mid-70s with all of this new interest in Verdejo, Angel took some cuttings and planted 25Ha of vines and provided a lot of the plant stock the new growers coming into the region. It is said to be the best clone in the region and much of the success of the region is thanks to this and similar old plots of vines.
Strangely, it was a Riojan family that brought Rueda back into the mainstream. So it is said anyway. Marques de Riscal had never made a white wine in Rioja and wanted to make something other than the traditional white Rioja. They searched Spain for the best area to make white wine and found a lot of great things going on in Rueda and decided to setup shop. Considerable investments in technology and vineyards were made and a new bodega was built in 1972. The resulting wine prompted a wave of new bodegas and the rejuvenation of the existing ones.
Climate and Geography
Like the neighbouring Ribera del Duero, most vineyards here are up at 750-800 meters. It’s a fairly dry region, with only 300-500mm of rain each year.
The area was a flood basin for the Duero river back in wetter times and as such is full of sedimentary rock, gravel and silty, sandy soils. One of the key features of the better vineyards is the stoney, rocky soil.
Wine making and styles
Standard practice for whites here is low oxygen contact, stainless steel tanks and fermenters, straight into bottle. Most wines are either a straight verdejo or Sauvignon blanc, with blends of the two grapes also popular.
There has also been a move towards barrel fermented wines, some with full malo work. These are big news in Spain and a very different style to what has been the norm in Spain. However for the us in the new world, we have many a Chardonnay that has similar treatment and for my mind this kind of treatment hides the real character of the Verdejo.
I have seen very few Rueda reds here in Australia as yet, I’m sure we’ll see some as the story unfolds.