DO Rueda targets UK as exports surpass one million bottle mark

The regulatory body for the Spanish DO Rueda will be targeting the UK market this year after exports to the country rose by 41.7% to over a million bottles in 2017, up from more than 700,000 bottles in 2016.

Mario Muñoz, international promotional director for the DO Rueda

DO Rueda hosted a tasting this week at 67 Pall Mall in London, showcasing the new release 2018 wines, predominantly made from Verdejo.

Speaking to the drinks business, Mario Muñoz, international promotional director for the DO Rueda, said that the 2018 vintage was “quite hot with a long harvest period.”

“The advantage with Rueda is that most of the harvest can be done mechanically,” he said. “This means the producers can be selective about when to harvest the grapes and can get them in when they need to.

“In 2018, there was no stress on the plants and winemakers achieved enough alcohol as well as acidity. This was helped by the large difference in day and night temperatures – a feature of Rueda.”

A total of 130.6 million kilograms of grapes were harvested in 2018, of which 99.07% were white varieties. The tasting showcased over 30 wines including 21 Verdejos and Sauvignon Blancs, plus some older vintages including barrel-fermented Verdejos and the traditional dorado wines.

“Rueda has been growing a lot in the UK,” said Muñoz. “In the on-trade, as well as the domestic market in Spain, is where we’re seeing growth.

“Our wines are ‘gastronomic wines’ – good quality food helps to show them off.

“As well as the fresher styles, there’s also a trend for more complex wines and demand for them within Spain. We’re seeing winemakers increasingly use things like concrete eggs, barrel-ageing, and ageing on lees to produce a new category of wines.”

The 2018 vintage the first year where the new, simplified back-labels will be displayed on bottles produced in Rueda. The new logo only includes the wording ‘DO Rueda’ with a colour scheme used to signify the grape varieties or styles of wine.

“This was done mostly for the domestic market,” said Muñoz. “Rueda wines, specifically made from Verdejo, have around a 41% market share of domestic white wine sales in Spain. We were finding that consumers were requesting a Verdejo, expecting the quality level of Rueda but getting a wine produced in a different region in Spain.

“The other areas that grow Verdejo, for example La Mancha, have completely different soils, climates and vine clones to us, and as a result produce very different wines.

De Alberto Dorado.

“For us, naming the variety is less important in the domestic market. Most consumers in Spain know Rueda for its Verdejo.”

Rueda comprises 72 municipalities, located in the Community of Castile and León, with around 99% of its production being white wines, 87% of which are made from Verdejo. It is known for its pebble stone soils and altitude, which ranges from around 600 to 950 metres above sea level. The river Duero runs through the region from east to west.

Other varieties used in the region include: Viura, Sauvignon Blanc, Palomino Fino, Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Garnacha.

Speaking about the region’s Dorado wines, an oxidative style similar to Sherry, Muñoz explained that it was produced in the region until the 1970s when it was considered old-fashioned and began to fall from favour.

The wines, which are typically produced from Verdejo, are made into a dry white wine which is then poured into 16-litre glass demijohns. The alcohol is raised to around 17% ABV and then the containers are placed outside for one year to age under the sun.

They are then transferred into French oak barrels as part of a Solera system where they must spend a minimum of 24 months. Due to the constant blending process, Muñoz said a proportion of the wine in the barrels will be as old as 80 years.

While still a hard sell, the wines are slowly coming back into production again. Before, there were only two wineries producing the style, whereas now there are five. The Dorado wine on pour at the tasting was De Alberto Dorado 100% Verdejo DO Rueda, which retails for £19.

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