Verdejo

Verdejo is the aromatic grape variety behind the crisp white wines of Rueda in central Spain. It is by far the most planted variety in this part of the country, and is produced both varietally and as the major component of a blend with either Viura or Sauvignon Blanc. Full bodied Verdejo wines are held in high regard, displaying herbaceous, nutty characters with balanced acidity and some cellaring potential.

The origins of Verdejo remain unclear. It seems most likely that it is indigenous to Castilla y Leon, although it has also been suggested that it arrived via southern Spain from North Africa in the 11th century. It seems that the variety was forgotten about for hundreds of years, and was most recently revived in the 1980s by Riojan producer Marques de Riscal.

Wherever the variety's origins, Rueda is its undisputed home now; the variety is extremely successful there, and is grown almost nowhere else in Europe. Verdejo now covers the vast majority of Rueda's vineyard land, and is one of Spain's most widely planted white wine varieties (although it is vastly surpassed in this regard by Airen, which has around 25 times more land under vine). The dry, continental climate, diurnal temperature variations and poor quality soils here help the grape to reach its best expression: aside from a few experimental plantings in Australia and California, the variety is not really found in volume anywhere else on earth.

The generic Rueda DO requires wines to be at least 50% Verdejo, with the remaining blend made up of Sauvignon Blanc or Viura. In the wines under the Rueda Verdejo designation, this increases to 85%, although in practice, these are most often made varietally. Verdejo is also the key grape variety in the region's sparkling wines, which are known as Rueda Espumoso.
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