What’s a Rueda?
Although technically still in the mountains, Friday’s race route doesn’t require a lot of climbing, at least not by 2015 Vuelta standards! About 100 km into the stage, the riders will scale a Cat 3 and then follow a long, gradual descent to the sprint stage which, ironically, does have a bit of an upward slope. Looming 20 km before the finish is the “big” climb of the day, a Cat 2. So, while Stage Nineteen doesn’t necessarily favor the climbers in the peloton, it doesn’t discount them either. There will definitely be a break-away early in the race and, if the escapees manage to remain in front after the second climb, they will probably succeed. Everyone will be watching the battle between Ton Dumoulin and Fabio Aru, separated by just three seconds in the GC standings. On Stage Eighteen, Aru attacked Dumoulin early and often, desperately trying to drop him from the group. To his credit, the Dutchman (who looks like a giant next to the tiny climbers) doggedly stayed on Aru’s wheel, giving him no quarter. With the Vuelta victory at stake, we should expect two more days of cat-and-mouse games, as each of the front-runners tries to outmaneuver the other. Don’t miss it!
Over the past few days, the peloton has pedaled through some very delicious wine country, and today is no exception. Stage Nineteen takes us to the DO of Rueda, famous for its crisp and lively white wines from the Verdejo grape. Wine production has ancient roots in Rueda, which still uses cellars dug under the city back in the 11th century. At that time, Alfonso VI offered land grants to citizens who would help populate the area. You can even visit some of the monasteries that took the king up on his offer and established the region’s first vineyards. In more recent news, Rueda has joined the enotourism movement with the Ruta del Vino de Rueda, bringing together world-class hotels and spas with trips to local wineries and historical sites.
As for the wine itself, most of what is produced in Rueda is white (reds were not included in the DO until 2002.) Verdejo is the star of the show, with Viura and Sauvignon Blanc playing the support roles, although Sauvignon Blanc has recently become a popular varietal wine. Varietal wines are blends (or 100%) that are dominated by one grape variety. It’s a phenomenon that is much more prevalent in the New World than in Europe. Think about American wine for a second – it’s not at all unusual to see wines labeled as Chardonnay or Merlot, for example. In Bordeaux, however, the front wine label will name the region it came from, but not the grapes.
For Stage Nineteen’s Vuelta Vaso recommendation, I suggest heading to the Spain section of the wine shop, and picking up a bottle of Rueda. Do you see any varietal Sauvignon Blanc on the shelf? If so, try it and compare it with others that you’ve tried from France or New Zealand. And taste it with the Rueda to see how the two grapes are different. Do you like one better than the other? Enjoy one last sip of summer before we head into the chillier temperatures of fall, and think about the peloton as it heads toward Madrid. Viva la Vuelta!