In our first interview with a female winemaker (about time!), Carmen Blanco, winemaker at Castelo de Medina, gives us the low-down on what makes the great whites of Rueda so great, not taking into account the feminine touch. Pictured, Carmen (left) with assistant winemaker Sara Román.
To view our post on the new wines from Castelo de Medina, click here.
1. Verdejo – could it be the next Sauvignon Blanc in terms of popularity, and is it better after time in oak?
Probably not because of where we can grow it. Verdejo is a native grape with both special soil and weather conditions. We grow Sauvignon blanc in Loire, California, South Africa, New Zealand, Rueda, Somontano… There is Verdejo in La Mancha but it is proven that they cannot get the same character from the grape that we do in Rueda.
Verdejo has great backbone, so it adapts very well to aging. We actually produce two aged Verdejos which we could lay down for eight years.
2. What makes the region so special for white wine production, and what makes Bodegas Castelo de Medina unique to other Rueda wineries?
Rueda rises 800 metres above the sea-level. This is a high flat between mountains and it is influenced by depressions of the Duero River. Its climate is continental. There are huge differences in temperatures between the day and the night along a year. Its soil is poor, gravelled and sandy with some limestone.
Actually, summertime, we have 30º during the day and 10º during the night. During the day we get the ripeness of the grapes. During the night it refreshes and preserves all the properties obtained during the day, which is very important for our acidity level. You need these conditions to make a good white wine with well-balanced alcohol and acidity, especially for our native Verdejo.
Winter is also extreme. We have frosts of -10º in the night while during the day we can have 10º. Spring and autumn are non-existent. In our region we say “Nueve meses de invierno, tres de infierno” which means: “Nine months of winter, three of hell”.
At Castelo de Medina we offer wines that are sourced from our own vineyards, which today, in Rueda, is a guarantee of quality because we make and control everything in the Winery. Our traceability is as it should always be in the “food sector”. We grow, we harvest, we make the wine, we package and we sell it. So we can say we offer some of the best value for money in the region. We export to 23 countries (9 states of US included), we have the experience to adapt our packaging to other markets (labels, bottles, cork, screw cap, capsules…) and we are well open to new challenges.
3. Which wine(s) were you most pleased with from the 2011 vintage, and how is 2012 shaping up with such changeable weather this summer?
Castelo de Medina Verdejo Selección 2011. Aromatic on the nose with flowers and fruits and roasted hints from two months ageing in French barrel. On the palate is very well-balanced, fresh with a lingering finish. It has only just become available to market.
In 2012 we are experiencing a dryness so we can expect a smaller production but with an higher quality. It happened during vintage 2005 too.
4. Is it fair to compare the white wines of New Zealand with Rueda, and where would you go if you could no longer make wine in Spain?
No, it is unfair. New-Zealand offers good wines too but in a very different way. I experienced myself making wine in New Zealand in Morton Estate Winery. In Rueda we still make wine in a traditional way and philosophy with strict and tight rules under an Appellation of Origin. Our vineyards are smaller and we have native grapes also: Verdejo and Viura. Using oak chips and chaptalising (I mean adding sugar) are two techniques which are totally forbidden under Rueda Appellation.
If I had to leave Spain I would like to go to France. Their concept of winemaking and quality control is similar. France is the motherland of the wine too.
5. What is your favourite part of the winemaking process and why?
To define which type of wine we are going to make from the vineyard and acting on this during the harvest.
6. Do you have a desert island wine? One wine you would take to heaven with you if you could?
Castelo de Medina Verdejo Selección 2011, my best white wine ever. [looks like we’ll have to get some of that!]
To view the range from Castelo de Medina, click here, all with 20% off until the end of August.