Wine: Verdejo Value 

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I realize that winter is upon us, and I should be yakking about Port or hearty Burgundies or something along those lines. Single malt Scotch to sip by the fire, perhaps. But I’m not quite ready to let go of fall and warmer weather just yet. Especially since I’ve been sampling some very appealing—both in price and taste—Verdejo wines of late. These, by rights, are ideal warm-weather wines, but what the hell: I can fantasize that I’m in the tropics as well as the next guy. And frankly, I find Verdejo yummy enough to drink any time. n

Not to be confused with Portugal’s Verdelho, from which Madeira is made, or Verdicchio from Italy, Verdello from the Canary Islands or Austria’s Grüner Veltliner, Verdejo is a Spanish grape variety that grows in that country’s Rueda region. When you see wines from Spain called simply Rueda, they must contain a minimum of 50 percent Verdejo, while wines designated Verdejo must be made from at least 85 percent Verdejo but often are made entirely with Verdejo.

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I find Spanish Verdejo quite similar in flavor and aroma profiles to Sauvignon Blanc. If you like one, you’ll like the other. Indeed, Verdejo in Spain has weathered the challenge from imported Sauvignon Blanc in that country. Like Sauvignon Blanc, Verdejo has herbal qualities and is very aromatic, somewhat glyceric, soft with a smidgen more body than S-B, and no oak. They are very good food wines and team up well with the standard S-B partners like fish, seafood, chèvre and such. But I find Verdejo very pleasing just to sip alone. It’s quickly becoming a favorite aperitif around my house. I’m especially fond of the price; most of these wines run around $9-$15.

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Bodegas Naia Rueda ($15) is light- to medium-bodied, very crisp, with lots of lemon, kiwi, pear, passion fruit and honeysuckle flavors. It’s surprisingly well structured—a great food wine.

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Spain’s Sanz family has made wine in Rueda for six generations. A couple of years ago, Ricardo Sanz began producing wines under the new Sitios de Bodega label, signaling a newer, more modern approach than that of his father. His Sitios de Bodega Con Class Rueda ($10.30) is a crisp, lively, floral wine with Sauvignon Blanc-like grapefruit and gooseberry aromas, plus just a suggestion of pineapple. It’s light-bodied and citrusy, a welcome partner for shrimp and other shellfish dishes with citrus sauces.

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Lately, I just can’t get enough of Valdelainos Verdejo Rueda ($13). Wine Enthusiast called it a “wine that sings,” and I agree. I’m thinking here specifically of Carla Bruni: snappy and melodic, honey-toned and sexy, with a hint of nuttiness. There’s bracing minerality, along with loads of citrus flavors in a soft package. This should be great with veal or chicken piccata or maybe just a big pot of steamed mussels.

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Two more can’t-miss value Verdejos are Ermita Veracruz Verdejo ($10), and Bodegas Martinsancho Verdejo ($18), which delivers a knockout punch of citrus and spring flowers on the nose, a truly beautiful wine that Robert Parker called “the best dry white table wine I have tasted from Spain.”

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SIPS: Congratulations to Dave Engen, mountain-states president of Young’s Market Co. of Utah. Last week, he was notified that he’d passed the difficult Certified Wine Educator (CWE) exam, given by the Society of Wine Educators. The pass rate for this exam is only 12 percent, and in fact, it had taken the exam proctor three tries before he passed. There are fewer than 300 active CWEs worldwide. Engen joins Gus McGann, president of Vine Lore Inc., as Utah’s only other CWE.

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