Verdejo: a Spanish Wine staple that shouldn't be overlooked

Verdejo’s popularity shot up in the noughties as it became a sort of substitute for the ever-popular Sauvignon Blanc. Nowadays, 4 in every 10 bottles of white wine sold in Spain is made from verdejo.

Verdejo is mainly grown in Castilla-León and particularly in the Denominación de Origen Rueda, which is just south of Valladolid in northwest Spain. Here it makes up nearly 90% of the harvest, so it really is the dominant grape variety.

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Rueda is an area of long, cold winters and hot, dry summers. Rainfall levels are very low, but you do get the occasional thunderstorm.

Vineyards in Rueda sits at between 700 and nearly 900 metres above sea-level. That means there’s a considerable difference between temperatures during the day and at night.

That’s a good thing because it maintains the balance between the grapes’ sugar levels, which develop in the heat, and the acidity, which is helped by the cool nights. 

Now Verdejo may be a very popular grape in Spain, but from a winemaker’s perspective, it can be quite a tricky grape to work with.

It’s delicate and quite thin-skinned which means it can be prone to oxidation, and you have to make verdejo wines carefully to preserve all the aromatics and freshness.

Fortunately, modern wine-making techniques help overcome most of these problems. The majority of harvesting takes place at night when it’s cooler, and using temperature-controlled, stainless-steel vats, and tools like vacuum filters allow the wines to ferment and develop without losing any of that clean fresh flavour. 

Speaking of flavour, some wine people dismiss Verdejo as being reliable but rather bland. It’s true that some of the more mass-produced verdejo wines can be a bit like that. But overlook this wine at your peril.

A good wine made from Verdejo will give you some lovely fruit flavours like apple, fresh lime and maybe even a touch of melon. Mixed with aromas like fresh grass, pine and even a bit of fennel. 

And increasingly, winemakers in Rueda are experimenting with things like barrel fermenting which add touches of oak and vanilla to those fresh fruit flavours that are typical of Verdejo.

But in general, these are fresh, bright, crisp wines that are perfect for a hot, summer day. So if you’re looking for a really refreshing – and very affordable - crisp white wine, then Verdejo is the perfect option.