Spanish White Guerrilla, Part Two: Verdejo


In a previous post I talked about the revolutionary wine project undertaken by Castillo de Maetierra to boost the image of white wines from Rioja, Spain.  Through the creation of Valles de Sadacia, a separate Protected Geographic Indication with its own locally determined wine-making standards, the founders sought to reimagine white wine’s place in Spain’s first Denominación de Origen.  At the heart of their strategy was the planting of grapes not normally associated with Rioja – or Spain – and establishing them in hillside vineyards throughout four of the seven valleys of Rioja: Alhama, Cidacos, Iregua and Leza.  To date there are plantings of Viognier, Gewurztraminer, Chardonnay, and Riesling alongside more typically Spanish varieties like Albariño.  What’s the point of all this, you ask?  Castillo de Maetierra takes a market-based approach to wine production, with an eye toward crafting wines that customers want – which often means fresh, aromatic, and fruity wines that can be drunk young.  To do that, they’ve put as many tools at their disposal as possible, including a wide variety of grapes and a marketing campaign designed to attract a younger audience.

The wine I tasted was the 2015 Verdejo, which the winery describes as a “Castilian thoroughbred fighter born in the heart of the Rueda DO, and it bears all the personality of the reigning variety.”  While Castillo de Maetierra has its roots in Rioja, this wine comes from grapes grown in Rueda, to the southwest.  It is a varietal wine made from 100% Verdejo grapes that underwent cold maceration to preserve as much of the aromatic character as possible.  Fermentation took place at a low temperature using natural yeasts, and the wine rested on its lees for four months.  Alcohol by volume is 12.5%.

Tasting Notes

In the glass, this wine is almost perfectly clear, with barely a tint of green-gold.  There’s no need for me to stick my nose inside the glass to get a whiff of the seductive white flower and peach-apricot aromas bursting forth.  If I were sampling this blind, I’d peg it as a Moscato or other non-Champagne sparkling wine, many of which are made from highly aromatic grapes and processed via the Charmat method to preserve as much aroma as possible.  It’s interesting that this wine rested sur lie for four months; I can find no trace of yeast or toast on the nose.  A sip surprises me.  The wine’s acidity is medium-low, and it has more weight that I’d have expected.  I taste peaches, pears, and thyme, and on the long finish there’s a note of fennel.  In short, I was expecting a crisp, easy quaff and this wine was something else altogether.  It was very pretty and made a nice match with a salad of arugula, chickpeas, and Manchego cheese.  The only thing I could have hoped for was just a touch more acidity.  Otherwise, at around $11 retail, this was a pretty nice wine!  Viva la Revolución!

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