Tasting Rueda – an exploration of diversity and character

What makes a wine region worth knowing? The presence of high-quality wines is, obviously, a sine qua non, along with consistency. But perhaps most important of all, in a competitive wine world where more regions than ever are attaining those two benchmarks, is a third, more elusive character, shared by all the best wine regions: a strong, distinctive personality.

Does Rueda meet this trio of exacting criteria? The tasting Decanter hosted in the process of putting this article together featured several dozen examples of Rueda wines. The line-up was dominated by the region’s signature dry white wines, but within that category there was a very broad range of price points and winemaking approaches to explore. By the end of the tasting, our notebooks were filled with descriptions of consistently good quality wines, which, while different in their own way, all shared certain characteristics that firmly identified them as Rueda. These were wines that could not come from anywhere else and should have a place in any drinking repertoire.

The Rueda character: The rule of three

One might ask then, what gives Rueda wines their unique, strong personality. Multiple factors come into play, shaping the identity of one of Spain’s most progressive wine regions.

Broadly speaking, it’s possible to identify three main areas that make Rueda stand out from the crowd: grape variety, climate, and geology. Before delving into the second two factors, let’s look at the single characteristic for which the region is best known: nobody makes dry white wine like Rueda does with its signature variety, Verdejo.

Having been grown in the region for more than 10 centuries, Verdejo is firmly embedded in Rueda’s terroir. And, as seen in the tasting notes below, it’s a variety capable of great stylistic range. Verdejo’s essential character is its aromatic exuberance, its natural mouth-filling fruitiness, its flowing, mouthwatering acidity and – the key, perhaps, to its compelling drinkability – a distinctive, satisfyingly bitter streak, notably on the finish. A classic Rueda Verdejo might have flavours of lime and orange citrus bursting on the tongue, along with succulent tropical and Mediterranean orchard fruit, and notes that are highly evocative of the Rueda region itself: mountain herbs and fennel, a touch of wild flower. That satisfying bitterness may take the form of citrus pith or zest, nuts (almonds) or macerated herbs. Put together, it’s an electric combination impossible to find elsewhere.

Indeed, Verdejo does seem uniquely suited to the local conditions up on the high plains of Castilla y Leo?n to the north of Madrid. Altitude – the vineyards are planted between 700 and 921 metres above sea level – plays an important role in shaping the climate, which features long cold winters, and hot dry summers. Crucially, while the summer days are hot and sunny, the nights are decidedly cool, and the enormous difference between day and night-time temperatures allows for the development of grapes that retain their characteristic, pronounced freshness and drive, while developing aromatic complexity.

No less important for the Verdejo character are the soils. Rueda sits in the central part of the depression formed by the River Duero, with broad alluvial terraces running down to the banks of the Duero itself and its tributaries, the Trabancos, Zapardiel, and Adaja. In general the brown soils are rich in calcium and magnesium, with limestone outcrops and sandy-loamy and loamy textures, while many of the best vineyards are grown on gravelly plots.

The many faces of Rueda

The Rueda vineyards are not just ideal for Verdejo. Other white varieties that thrive in the region include Sauvignon Blanc, which arrived in the 1970s and produces lively, aromatic wines both in single varietal bottlings and as a complementary blending partner with Verdejo; Viura, best known for its role as the leading white varietal in Rioja; and Palomino Fino, of sherry fame….

Source : https://www.decanter.com/sponsored/tasting-rueda-an-exploration-of-diversity-and-character-502440/

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