The Wines of Rueda, Spain

Bird's Eye View of Rueda Wine Region taken from Bing Maps
Rueda: nothing but vineyards as far as the eye can see (with the occasional solar power station). The route between Rueda and Serrada taken from Bing Maps

No one goes to Rueda.

Your internationally travelled friends will never come back with stories of Rueda. It’s a place where few outsiders will venture, even if the region produces some of the most amazing wines, along with a plethora of exotic agricultural products (look up Piñones Reales–Spanish pine nuts and raw sheep’s milk cheese, Queso Zamorano). The region is patchwork of vineyards on the flat high plains south of Valladolid, that’s home to a rare indigenous white grape called Verdejo (“vurr-day-ho”).

Rueda wine region of Spain by Wine Folly


Your first foray into Verdejo may only be a modest $10, but don’t let the price fool you into thinking that these wines aren’t special! Verdejo is a very old grape that was supposedly brought into the region over 1000 years ago before the Moorish rule of Iberia. The grape lost favor during the early 1900s when oxidative Sherry-like white wines became en vogue. Fortunately, Verdejo was saved in the 1970s, helped in part by the prodigious Rioja producer, Marques de Riscal, who saw Verdejo as the Spanish choice for a growing demand for refreshing white wines like Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.


Many of Rueda's vines are farmed as bush vines.  Notice the pine nut trees in the background.   Vineyards at Garciarevalo
Many of Rueda’s vines are farmed as bush vines. Notice the pine nut trees in the background. Vineyards at Garciarevalo in Matapozuelos

Verdejo has mutated over hundreds of years to thrive in Rueda’s stark climate–it’s dry and either hot-as-hell or freezing cold! There are many sandy vineyards here, which have resisted phylloxera and have 100+ year-old Verdejo vines. If you’re a wine geek, this is exciting news! It means Verdejo wines can show profound richness when sourced these older vineyards.

TIP: Verdejo is very hard to find outside of Rueda – we have heard of just a few producers in California and Virginia ).



Rueda Regional Production

The most planted variety in Rueda is Verdejo. Wines labeled Rueda Verdejo must have at least 85% Verdejo, and many are 100% Verdejo (and usually listed as such on the back label). Wines labeled Rueda may contain up to 50% Sauvignon Blanc and other white grapes – a style that’s gaining popularity due to the familiarity of this grape. There is also a very small amount of red grapes planted in Rueda, labeled with a similiar classification method as Rioja (e.g. Crianza, Reserva, Gran Reserva). These wines have the potential to reach the same intensity of Toro (just down river), but this is not the specialty of Rueda!

Aging Rueda Wines

Well-made Rueda wines will develop more toasted almond and orange peel notes as they age. While most of us do not age Rueda wines longer than a day, you might try setting down a few bottles for 5–8 years to see how the wine evolves. Remember to select Verdejo wines with high acidity and without too much oxidation for aging experiments!

Soils Wine Folly

Rueda Dirt

Rueda is part of the Duero River Basin which was created during the Cenozoic era (from 1–65 million years ago). The soils here are very deep and well-drained, primarily of sandy-clay or a clay blend. Because it is so dry here, farmers used to dig wells around the grapes every spring to help collect rainwater. Today, however, drip irrigation has reduced the need for manual labor.

You’ll note the vineyards with more clay-based soils (which are often topped with a layer of stones) produce richer styles of Verdejo with more texture, whereas, the deep sandy soils (which are phylloxera resistant) tend to produce Verdejo wines with more lithe and minerally flavors and with higher aromatic intensity. The soil types of Rueda are not clearly delineated, so be sure to look up information about the vineyard if you find something you love!

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2016 Bordeaux Barrel Tasting: James Molesworth's Blogs and Wine Reviews (Wine Spectator)

James Molesworth is tasting barrel samples in Bordeaux to get a first glimpse of the 2016 vintage. Follow along with his scores, tasting notes and blogs
Source: Wine Tasting

Taster’s Guide to Verdejo Wine

Verdejo (“Vurr-day-ho”) is an uncommon, light-bodied white wine that grows almost exclusively in Spain. The wine is an outstanding alternative to wines like Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio, with surprising changes in flavors coming with age. Find out more about Verdejo, where it grows, what it tastes like, and excellent food pairings.

TIP: Verdejo is not the same grape as Portuguese grape, Verdelho.

Verdejo is not most people’s first wine, nor is it their second wine. It’s not a wine that your friends discover on international travels, because nobody goes to Rueda, Spain. So, if you’ve tasted Verdejo already, your part of a very small group of enthusiasts!



Tasting Verdejo

Verdejo makes subtle-yet-stunning white wines with flavors of lime, Meyer lemon, grapefruit, grass, fennel, and citrus blossom. It’s often likened to Sauvignon Blanc but really, it deserves its own category. Unlike most whites, Verdejo continues to improve over several years of bottle-aging, where it gains a rich texture and flavors of toasted Marcona almonds, supported by sparkly acidity. The bitter flavors of grass and fennel come in on the finish and almost make the wine taste crunchy.


Verdejo behaves like a lime on a plate of fish tacos. photo by Jeffrey W

Food Pairing with Verdejo

One of the best ways to drink Verdejo is alongside food. The wine’s higher acidity and subtle bitterness make it work very well as a palate cleanser. Things to keep in mind when creating pairings is to use Verdejo’s lime and citrusy flavors to offset a dish. As a general rule, if you would put lime in the meal, it will probably pair well with Verdejo! That said, a Verdejo wine that has noticeable oak-aging will work better with dishes that have more cream or with coconut-based sauces. Happy pairing!

Lime Chicken, Chicken in Almond Sauce (pollo en pepitoria), Carnitas, Fish Tacos, Sole, Pork Loin, Seitan, and Tofu
Sheep’s Milk Cheeses: Manchego, Queso Zamorano, Pecorino, Feta, Ossau-Iraty, Halloumi, Petit Basque, and Ricotta
Lime, Tarragon, Cilantro, Basil, Parsley, Garlic, Ginger, Galangal, Sichaun Pepper, Red Pepper Flake, Cayenne Pepper, Cumin, Coriander, Tamarind, Pine Nuts
Potato, Artichoke, Leek, Shallot, Bell Pepper, Asparagus, Avocado, Arugula, Pineapple, Coconut, Mango, and Green Onion


Styles of Verdejo

When you dig into finding a Verdejo wine, you’ll find that there are a few different styles available.

Lean and Minerally: This style continues to increase in popularity and champions Verdejo’s lime and grassy flavors. This would be the style that is a great alternative to Sauvignon Blanc. Producers who champion this style usually bottle their wines in high-shoulder bottles (aka Bordeaux bottles).

Medium-Weight and Smoky: A style achieved with the use of oak fermentation, oak aging, or other oxidative winemaking techniques gives the wines of this type more richness and a somewhat creamy texture on the palate, as well as subtle notes of toasted almonds and lemon curd. Producers who champion this style often opt to give the wine a made-up name (such as Bodegas Naia “Naiades”) and use a low-shoulder bottle.


MicroBioWines Sandy Soils Vineyard in Rueda, Spain
Pre-phylloxera Verdejo old vines in MicroBioWines vineyards

Verdejo from Rueda

The Rueda region is home to the largest number of plantings of Verdejo grapes in the entire world. There are many places in Rueda with deep, sandy soils that are naturally phylloxera resistant. Some of these sandy vineyards have century’s old vineyards which produce some of the most expressive Verdejo wines.

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Featured Grape: Verdejo

If you’re a fan of crisp, fresh, aromatic, fruity white wines with clean herbaceous notes, you’ll want to reach for a Verdejo. The grape is predominantly grown in Rueda, Spain, where careful harvesting and vinification techniques are instrumental to maintaining its crisp, lively style, as the grape is prone to easy oxidation. Very similar in style and flavor to Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris, Verdejo makes both a refreshing aperitif and good food pairing wine.

Verdejo Taste Profile illustration by Wine Folly

Verdejo wines can be made into two distinctive styles. Most often, you’ll encounter Verdejo as a ready to drink, light and crisp wine with herbaceous notes and fresh fruit flavors. However, when Verdejo sees more oxygen during fermentation (usually during oak-aging), the resultant wine becomes much more full-bodied and somewhat nutty, with additional notes of almond and honey.

Low-shouldered bottles typically indicate a wine with some form of oxidative winemaking, where as high-shouldered bottles indicate a leaner, fruity style.

Try a fresh, lively Rueda Verdejo

When labeled Rueda Verdejo, the wine will contain at least 85% Verdejo (though most often are 100%), as opposed to Rueda white blends, which must have at least 50% Verdejo with the remaining usually Sauvignon Blanc and/or Viura (aka Macabeo).


Create Your Own Comparative Wine Tasting

We created a set of tasting mats that will help you assess wine and create your own wine tastings. The set includes mats for up to 80 wines, instructions on how to create a tasting, as well as a wine aroma wheel.

Tasting Mats

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St. Patty’s Day Green Wine Cocktails (Video)

We decided to make some wine cocktails for St. Patty’s day that are actually good. They’re awesome because 3 out of 4 of them use fruit and vegetables for their brilliant green color. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did (while making this video)!




Need the full recipe?

Get the full recipes for all 4 cocktails with detailed instructions
See Recipes

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