Rueda: Spain’s Cutting-Edge Wine Region

Rueda wines made news this summer when MSNBC.com’s wine expert, Edward Deitch, recommended a 2006 Rueda Verdejo made by Marqués de Riscal, calling it “top-value”, “easy-to-drink” and “satisfying.” 

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Rueda, a DO since 1980, is located in northwestern Spain, in the Castilla y León region. The Duero River flows through Rueda’s northwestern corner. Several tributaries branch off from this important river, providing, through their flooding, soils that are excellent for growing wine grapes. The soil is high in magnesium and calcium, and, over time, has transformed from downright rocky to “stony but easy to farm,” according to DO Rueda’s website. Most of Rueda’s wineries are clustered around the cities of Rueda and La Seca, although some are found farther southeast, near Santiuste de San Juan Bautista and Nieva.

Rueda’s climate plays an important role in the cultivation and quality of its wine grapes. Winters are usually cold, similar to a Continental climate. Summers are more Mediterranean and are typically hot and dry. Selectively-applied irrigation, which is controlled under the region’s DO regulations, has helped Rueda expand its wine production zones. Without modern drip-irrigation systems, Rueda’s wine growers would not be able to produce quality grapes at the record levels they’ve recently enjoyed.

Rueda is mainly known for its white wines, although recent (2001) changes to the region’s wine regulations now allow for production of red wines.

About 84% of Rueda’s vineyards are planted with white grape varieties. Of these, verdejo is the predominant variety, comprising about 90% of the region’s white wine grape production. Viura, sauvignon blanc and palomino grapes are also grown in Rueda. Popular red varieties include tempranillo (88% of red wine grape production), cabernet sauvignon, merlot and garnacha.

Rueda white wines, in particular, are known for their consistently good quality. In spite of the vagaries of hot summers and low rainfall, the overarching quality of the verdejo grape shines through.