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Why Spain’s best-selling white wine should be on your radar

In a video released this week, we look at Spain’s most popular white wine and consider why it should be on your radar, wherever you’re based.

Patrick Schmitt MW presents a selection of wines from Rueda

As we outline in a new video, which can be watched here, this Spanish drop is perfect for lovers of crisp, light, white wines; the sort of people who order Sauvignon Blanc in bar, or buy a bottle of Chablis when they’re treating themselves for a night in.

So what is it? It’s something that’s bright, citrus-scented, and great value, and it’s called Rueda, which means ‘wheel’ in Spanish.

Importantly, it’s a white wine producing area in northern Spain that’s booming in its home nation, but relatively undiscovered by the wider world.

In fact, Rueda, which is located about two hours drive north of Madrid, is the source of Spain’s best-selling white wine, with more than 40% of the market.

So what makes it such a success in its home nation? Well, it’s both refreshing and affordable. Almost entirely made from a grape called Verdejo, Rueda can be compared to cool-climate Sauvignon Blanc, with flavours of lime and grapefruit. But rather than having the gooseberry, grassy character of Sauvignon, the whites of Rueda tend to have a refreshing herbal note, sometimes with a subtle taste of fennel.

As for the cost, Rueda isn’t one of those wines that’s delicious but inaccessibly priced, and delivers all its appealing traits without charging the earth.

The character of Rueda is also unique. Its intense, distinctive and refreshing taste results from a combination of Spanish native grape Verdejo, and Rueda’s extreme, continental climate, plus its high altitude vines rooted deeply into soils so stony, they look like pebble beaches.

In essence, Rueda is not something that can be replicated elsewhere, especially as 10% of Rueda’s vineyards are over 40 years old, with some more than 100, giving a depth to the wines that you just won’t get with a young vine. And, while the region was officially created in 1980, its wine producing origins can be traced back to the middle ages – this is an ancient vine-growing landscape.

Finally, although Rueda is primarily a citrus-fresh light white wine based on Verdejo, there are variations in style. Some of this relates to other grape varieties planted in the region, such as Sauvignon Blanc – which is sometimes blended with Verdejo to give an additional aromatic layer. And some of this variation relates to winemaking techniques, with the region also home to richer barrel-influenced whites, and historic fortified wines, not unlike Sherry.

In all, the wines of this Spanish region are brilliant partners to a range of cuisines, but, in particular, Rueda provides the perfect wine pairing for a plate of seafood.

The wines that feature in the video include six different, benchmark wines, taking in the key styles of the region, starting with sparkling, but also including citrus-scented affordable whites for seafood, barrel-aged oily-fresh wines for creamy dishes, as well as a nutty, sherry-like drop for sipping and snacking. See below for more detail on the chosen bottles.

The wines that feature in the video

1 Cantosan Brut

A traditional method fizz made entirely from Verdejo with fine, mouth-filling bubbles, a creamy texture, followed by citrus zest on the finish, and notes of toast and almonds. All for less than £10.

2 Pregon, Verdejo

Pregon loosely translates as ‘proclamation’, and this white cries out for crab meat, with its super fresh apple and lime zest flavours and hint of bitter almond, giving bite to the finish. All this for around £7.

3 Castelo de Medina, Sauvignon Blanc

A pure Sauvignon Blanc with a lively mix of citrus, pineapple, lemongrass, and a touch of crunchy capsicum. So, if you’re looking outside France or New Zealand for your Sauvignon fix, then try this,

4 Caserío de Dueñas, Verdejo Superior

Returning to Rueda’s native grape of Verdejo, we have this ‘superior’ variant, which is a bit pricier, costing a little more than £10, a result of top quality grapes and some barrel influence. As a result you can expect notes of juicy pink grapefruit, some bitter almond and a delicious slightly oily texture, that would make this suitable for anything with creamy sauces.

5 Campo Eliseo, Verdejo

Also, offering something a touch on the pricier side by Rueda standards, and made entirely with Verdejo, is this richly flavoured white from Campo Eliseo. Costing between £10 and £15, and aged in a range of formats, from French oak barrels to egg-shaped concrete vats, it has a wonderful array of characters from zesty lemon and lime, to pear and then a delicious overlay of vanilla and cashew.

6 Dorado De Alberto

Finally, we showed a historic wine of the region in the video. Called Dorado, it’s made in a similar way to Sherry, in that it’s fortified and then aged for long periods in oak barrels, giving it a uniquely appealing mix of flavour, which range from vanilla to toast, dried apricot to raisins, while finishing, nutty, fresh and dry.

You can watch the video for yourself on the wines from Rueda right here:

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