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What is Verdejo wine?
Verdejo, not to be confused with verdelho, is a grape from northern Spain historically used to make fortified wines. But in the 1970s, one producer made a crisp modern dry white from it – a sort of Spanish Sancerre. It was a revelation, delivering an explosion of aromatic, floral, fruity and nutty flavours, and is now considered one of Spain’s best whites.
Verdejo is thought to have come from North Africa, brought over by Moorish conquerors in the 11th century. It’s grown all over Castile-Leon in central Spain, but it’s particularly well-known for the wines it produces in Rueda. Originally, the grape was used to make a sherry-esque wine, but the Rioja producer Marqués de Riscal pioneered the modern style in the 1970s. To unleash those big aromatic flavours, the grapes are harvested at night to maintain freshness, protected from oxygen contact, then fermented at a low temperature. A wine labelled Rueda Verdejo must be a least 85% Verdejo. It’s often blended with Sauvignon Blanc – in fact, the flavour of the grape is like a more exotic Sauvignon Blanc – and sometimes with Macabeo (also known as Viura), a fairly neutral Spanish grape.
What does Verdejo wine taste like?
Verdejo has a grassy herbal flavour not unlike Sauvignon Blanc, but often with notes of satsuma, lemon, fennel and almonds, and often, a pronounced acidity. The old-school fortified style is a bit like sherry, but some producers are now ageing it in oak barrels and stirring lees (the dead yeast cells), which builds texture and develops flavours of nuts and sometimes honeysuckle. Young, crisp Verdejo tastes best cold, whereas richer examples should be served a little warmer.
What dishes go well with Verdejo wine?
Verdejo pairs well with goat’s cheese, tomato and shellfish, and those big aromatic types are a great partner for Vietnamese and Thai food. The high acidity matches well with battered fish, as it cuts through the fat. Richer examples are a great substitute for white Burgundy, and go well with buttery dishes and poultry.
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