A characterful grape with a distinctive blue-green bloom, Verdejo is the grape mascot (grapescot?) of Spain’s Rueda region and the dominant constituent in blends from the area along with (the imported) Sauvignon Blanc. It is suggested that Verdejo originated in northern Africa and made its way to southern Spain, where it travelled north (presumably not unassisted) during the reign of King Alfonso VI, in the 11th century. It is found in Rueda, Castilla y Leon and Castilla la Mancha and it is in the high-plateau continental region of Rueda with its cold winters and hot summers that it is said the perfect expression of the grape exists.
Rueda officially became a D.O. in 1980 and its guidelines stipulate that wines labelled Rueda must contain a minimum of 50% of Verdejo and wines labelled Rueda Verdejo must contain a minimum of 85% Verdejo. Generally, most are made entirely with the Verdejo variety. Today, there are over 1,500 growers and 62 wineries in Rueda producing Verdejo wines.
Verdejo is usually aromatic and herbaceous with laurel undertones and fruit flavours of green melon, lime, citrus blossom and fresh white peach. The grape has great potential for extraction, capable of ageing into a nutty and toasty, pleasingly complex maturity with a great sparkling acidity. Basic styles are minerally in style, leaning into the grassiness that can be suggestive of Sauvignon Blanc but a weightier profile can be achieved, using oxidative winemaking to impart more richness and a creamy full palate.
Image: Verdejo bottle and vines at Diez Siglos, Rueda, Spain; © Diez Siglos.