I don’t have a large catalog of Verdejo in my brain, as there is very little of this grape grown in California. The ones I have found in my travels are either grown in the Sierra Foothills or in Lodi, warm and dry climates that are fairly similar to Spain’s Rueda region. Most of them tend to be very aromatic and have a slightly heavier body with more tropical notes and they can seem almost Viognier-like.
The Verdejo Grape
The Verdejo grape variety grows in small clusters of tiny grapes that have a thick golden skin which provides a defense against harsh dry climates. It has long been grown in the Rueda region of Spain but the grape originated in North Africa. In the 11th Century it was spread to Rueda, possibly by Mozarabs - Iberian Christians who lived under Arab Islamic rule in Al-Andalu. Verdejo was generally used to make a strongly oxidized, Sherry-like wine.
In the 1970s the winemaking company Marqués de Riscal began to develop a fresher style of white wine based on Verdejo with the help of French oenologist Émile Peynaud, who author of one of the best books on wine The Taste of Wine: The Art and Science of Wine Appreciation.
In 1980 white wines from the Rueda region were recognized by a Denominación de Origen (DO). Wines labeled Rueda must contain at least 50% Verdejo; the remainder is typically Sauvignon Blanc or Macabeo. Wines designated “Rueda Verdejo” must contain at least 85% Verdejo but are frequently 100% Verdejo
The Rueda Region
Spain’s Rueda region is an elevated, dry land that sits on the Castillian tablelands northwest of the Spanish capital of Madrid. There is only one Denominación de Origen in the region of Rueda, which is “Rueda D.O.” The Denominación de Origen Rueda was approved by the Ministry of Agriculture on January 12, 1980. It was the first Denominación de Origen to be approved in the Region of Castilla y León, after years of hard work in order to earn acknowledgement and protection for its most well-known grape variety - Verdejo.
The region consists of 74 towns and villages, 53 of which are located south of the province of Valladolid, 17 to the west of Segovia and 4 north of Ávila. The different grape varieties grown here are irregularly scattered over the several municipal districts comprising Rueda Appellation of Origin. However, it is the area found within the boundaries of La Seca, Rueda and Serrada where vineyards are in a higher proportion and greater intensity.
The 2011 José Pariente Verdejo is made from 100% Verdejo from the Pariente family’s 30-year-old vineyard. This wine is clear, straw-yellow and on the nose I picked up slightly under ripe bananas, peaches, white flowers and apricots. After much swirling (it was served rather cold) I picked up additional aromas of honeycomb and melon. On the palate this wine has high acidity, it is medium bodied and has a prolonged finish with lingering notes of zesty dried apricots.
I don’t give out wine scores and even if I did I don’t have a large enough experience with this varietal to form a basis for comparison. However, this wine has scored fairly well among wine critics as it received 89 points from the Wine Spectator, 90 points from Stephan Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar and 91 points from Robert Parker.
I tasted this wine at The Vine at Bridges in Danville, California and brought a bottle home. I have seen it for sale anywhere between $20 and $25.
To visit or for more information:
The Vine at Bridges
480 Hartz Ave
Danville, CA 94526
Wine Bar Hours
Sunday: 12 (noon) - 7pm
Monday: 5 - 9pm
Tuesday - Wednesday: 4 - 10pm
Thursday - Saturday: 4 pm - 12:00 am