Rueda - perfect place for the production of white wines
Spain has been producing some of the best wines in the world for thousands of years. But despite the dedication to wine-making traditions, much has changed in the production of Spanish wines in recent decades. Traveling through the picturesque vineyards of Rueda, I was able to learn in detail about the current wine trends and the most popular wines of the region.
A trip to the spanish vineyards of rueda
The ancient and picturesque Spanish town of Rueda is located in the municipality of Castile and Leon in northwestern Spain. Rueda shares its name with the wines that are produced in the surrounding area in the vineyards of the provinces of Valladolid, Segovia, and Avila. Citrus, bright and fresh wines of Rueda, which appeared in the region only 40 years ago, have already influenced the taste of Spanish wines, the economy of the country, and its tourist potential.
The Rueda wine region is located in the valley of the Duero River, on a smooth plateau that is blown by a temperamental Atlantic wind. There was a time when the sea was located here and the area was underwater. Now the vineyards are located at an altitude of 700-870 meters above sea level. The soils are very deep, mostly sandy clay or clay. Because it is so dry, growers dug wells around the grapes every spring to collect rainwater. Today, however, drip irrigation has reduced the need for manual labor.
Vineyards with more clayey soils (which are often covered with a layer of stones) produce a richer Verdejo, while deep sandy soils (which are resistant to phylloxera) tend to produce wines with a milder and more mineral taste. A cold and long winter, a short spring with frosts causes the vines to bloom late, but thanks to the sharp differences between day and night temperatures, the berries maintain a balance of sugar and acidity, as well as fresh, clean flavors of the grapes.
Rueda region: history and unique features
Throughout its history, Rueda has been known for fortified wines from the Verdejo grape variety, whose popularity has declined over time, forcing the region's winemakers to look for a new approach to production. The decision came from the brand Marques de Riscal, which proposed to explore Rueda as a place for the production of white wine, which would partner with its red from Rioja.
There was no better solution – the region's high-altitude location, harsh climate, an abundance of Verdejo, and drained soil proved to be the perfect place to create fresh, rich white wines. This strategy has contributed to the revival of the region, where today there are many wineries, from small family farms to world-famous brands, which together produce 40% of Spain's white wines, and Rueda ranks third after the great regions of Rioja and Ribera del Duero.
The most common grape variety in Rueda is Verdejo – about 85% of the 16,000 hectares of vineyards. The second-largest variety is Sauvignon Blanc, which is allowed as a separate variety with DO Rueda, and as a blend with Verdejo. Palomino Fino is represented in smaller numbers. And only 2% of the region is planted with red Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Garnacha grapes.
The pearl of the region is a small stock of old vines, which represent about 10% of the total area. On this trip, I was able to see vineyards, about 120 years old, the grapevines of which are so gnarled and bizarre that it is difficult to believe that they are still bearing fruit.
Many of them live on their own roots, having survived the phylloxera epidemic thanks to the local soil. The knotty Verdejo vines, many of which are more than 100 years old, still produce unique, high-quality grapes. The wines from these berries are exceptional examples of Spanish winemaking.
Vinos de la luz white wine from verdejo grapes
Verdejo vines have been growing in the Rueda region for more than 10 centuries, which made the grapes really special, imbuing their taste and aroma with hints of mountain herbs, ripe fruits, and fresh acidity. The wines from Verdejo are incredibly harmonious, and their long aftertaste makes you taste Rueda again. The region's winemakers traditionally keep their wines on the lees, when the drink remains in contact with the yeast lees for several months, which gives it even more depth and complexity. Also now they practice the technique of aging in barrels, large-format wooden containers, and cement tanks.
Aged on the lees of Cinema Verdejo wine from Vinos de La Luz, has a multi-faceted creamy taste and the freshness of citrus in the aroma. Despite the unique quality of the wines from old grapevines, a remarkable feature of Valcerracin Verdejo Selection Limitada from Vinos de La Luz, oenologist Noella Mena has refined the benefits of age and youth in the wines of Valpincia Verdejo and Despertar Verdejo to give the wine freshness and notes of tropical fruits.
Quality control of rueda wines
Today, the territory of the Rueda appellation consists of more than seventy municipalities: 53 – in the south of the province of Valladolid, 17 – in the western part of Segovia, and 4 more in the north of Avila.
All D.O. Rueda wines are tasted by the Qualification Committee, which consists of oenologists, sommeliers, experts from government agencies, and other specialists. Wines that do not meet the standards will be presented as ordinary "table wines" and only wines of exceptional quality that meet all the requirements will receive the D.O. label.