Rueda is Spanish for “wheel” (see my pun in the title). The flag for the region features a wheel. But where is Rueda and what is Verdejo?
Let’s take a step back here. The World of Wine Travel group is exploring Spain this year and here in March, we are looking more specifically at the Castilla y Leon region, led by the glorious duo of Allison Wallace of AdVINEtures and Lynn Gowdy of Savor the Harvest. You can read their invitation post here.
You can join us on Saturday, March 27th on Twitter as we discuss this region. Have a favorite wine or winery in the region, jump in and tell us about it! Saturday morning at 8 am PDT or 11 am EDT, you can find us by following and using the hashtag #WorldWineTravel!
Castilla y Léon
This region is in the North of Spain, central and leaning to the west wrapping the North East corner of Portugal. The entire region of Castilla y Léon is a DO (Denominaciones de Origin) but it also contains 9 additional nested DOs, among the most famous being Ribera del Duero, famous for its Tempranillo. But when it comes to white wine, Spanish wine drinkers turn to the Rueda DO, where they make beautiful white wines based on Verdejo.
Rueda sits just south of the center of the Castilla y Léon region and it is the most famous region in Spain for white wine. While they grow several varieties, by far the most important in the region is Verdejo.
Wine in this area dates back to the Middle Ages. On the Rueda site, they say “The Verdejo grape came to Spain from the Mozarabs, who repopulated the Douro Basin”. This simple statement left me with questions. Who are the Mozarabs and where were they coming from. Was Verdejo native there?
Find more details on this region and neighboring Ribera del Duero at the site Ribero y Rueda!
A tale of two beginnings for Verdejo
Okay, I did some research and there are two stories about how Verdejo came to be in this region. First I’ll tell you the lovely romantic story of the Mozarabs.
The Mozarabs were Christians who came from Northern Africa around the area of Algeria and were living on the Iberian peninsula when it was under Islamic rule. It is said that they brought this grape with them. This is the story you will find on the Rueda site.
The other story is less romantic unless you are into grape romance. DNA research suggests that Verdejo’s parentage is Savagnin (or Traminer) that originates in France’s Jura Region and Castellana Blanca which was once found throughout the region, but today is mostly found on the Canary Islands. Verdejo is a full sibling to Godello and a half sibling to Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc and Trousseau. This of course lends itself to the grape being of Spanish origin with the crossing of its parent grapes likely happening in this region.
The History of Rueda
The wine of the region first came to acclaim in the 15th century when it was known as “Tierra de Medina wines”, Medina del Campo being a city in the region. Isabella I of Castile took a liking to the wine and set out ordinances to protect the vineyards.
Our wine comes from La Seca, an area in which the vineyards grew to a point that in the mid-1600s, an order was issued to restore lands to communal pastures. The measure was ineffective, but in 1763 409 hectares of vineyard in the region were destroyed. Despite these setbacks, La Seca headed into the 19th century with winemaking increasing.
The Rueda wine industry prospered and wines were exported to England, France, and Cuba, this process was made easier by the arrival of the railroad. Then phylloxera hit and almost completely wiped out the area. In the 1930s the region started a small comeback (which you will see with our specific wine), but in the 1970s things really kicked up a notch.
Climate and soil
Rueda sits ½ mile above sea level and the climate is extreme. Winters are brutal, spring comes late and summers can be blisteringly hot. Verdejo loves it. Lots of sunshine, low rainfall, and winds to keep mildew, disease, and rot away, plus cool nights, perfect for retaining acid in the grapes.
Styles of Rueda wines
Verdejo had been made traditionally in an oxidative style outside in glass demi-johns in the heat. These were the years of Rueda Dorado. This wine, with rich golden color, was fortified and required 4 years of aging with at least 2 of those in oak.
In the 70s, wine styles changed and they began to make a fresher wine style. It can be compared to Sauvignon Blanc, with a bit more roundness and food-friendliness. This style is now the most popular white wine in Spain. The Oxford Companion to Wine mentions that from 2004 to 2011 the vineyards for Verdejo expanded threefold!
While Verdejo is clearly the primary grape here with the lion’s share of vineyard hectares planted to this variety, you will also find Viura and Sauvignon Blanc, which can be blended with the Verdejo. Of course, if it is labeled Verdejo, you are guaranteed that it is at least 85%, Verdejo.
This is a wine that can age, though it’s rare that anyone keeps a bottle of this refreshing stuff long enough for it to age. When it does age, you find notes of orange peel and toasted nuts.
Bodega Cuatro Rayas
Our wine comes from Bodega Cuatro Rayas, which was founded in 1935. Located in La Seca the winery was founded as a cooperative. Members include over 300 growers in 30 villages with over 2,500 hectares of vineyards.
They account for 18% of the production in this DO and 80% of their production is Verdejo. They produce 15-16 million bottles annually.
The winery focuses on sustainability. They built a zero-waste winery, and are using biodegradable bottles, screwcaps and labels. They recently launched their “Green & Social” seal.
“The design of this hallmark depicts a grape and a smiley face united by two arrows forming a circle and highlights the interdependence of the sustainability of the natural environment and the people who live in it.”
Cuatro Rayas Organic Verdejo 2019
There line of Organic wines is there way of showing their commitment to environmental and social sustainability. The labels in this line are a tribute to biodiversity in the vineyard. The Verdejo shows an owl, the perfect predator to cultivate in a vineyard to keep it rodent free. This wine is also vegan certified, as they have not animal byproducts used in fining or filtering.
The organic vineyards for this Verdejo have sandy-clay based soils that are well-draining. The grapes are harvested at night. It ferments in steel and goes through 3 months of batonnage.
The wine poured clear, a soft pale lemon in color. The nose was clean and pronounced. There were primary aromas of lime zest, grapefruit, unripe pear, and a hint of white pepper.
In my mouth, it was fresh and bright, dry with high acidity, and medium body. The flavor intensity is medium plus with notes of lemon, wet stones, and lemon zest.
Sitting at 13% abv it ran me $15.50 at my local wine shop. (you know, my favorite guys at Garagiste LV)
What to pair with a Rueda Verdejo?
Madeline Puckett at Wine Folly says that any dish that you would top with lime, will go with a fresh Verdejo from Rueda.
So we went with fish tacos.
I cooked some tilapia in the oven, made a slaw with purple cabbage, and finished the soft tacos off with fresh avocado, sour cream, corn relish, and a bit of fresh tarragon.
I also made a salad with arugula topped with orange, grapefruit, and blood orange supremes and fresh red onion in a mixture of honey, tarragon, salt, pepper and dried orange peel.
Funny story. My fridge has been overflowing with limes for awhile now, so I didn’t even look for those at the grocery store. I got home only to realize I had already used the last. Ah well, the wine served as the lime to pair with the dishes.
The wine really made the tarragon pop. Was this a life-changing pairing? No, but it was a delicious lunch on a Sunday afternoon! All the flavors worked together, it was simple and easy and not too thought-provoking, but delicious.
Cuatro Rayas Vendimia Nocturna Verdejo
This winery makes another Verdejo that you should look out for. Their Vendimia Nocturna, is their flagship wine. In Rueda mechanized night-harvesting has been practiced for many years to avoid oxidation and control fermentation. I read a piece that said
“the grapes are harvested with the only company of the stars and surrounded by a silence that only breaks the mechanical noise of the grape harvesters, a metallic lullaby that cradles the Verdejo”
#WorldWineTravel in Castilla y Léon
This is a region to explore further. In addition to this style of wine, and the Rueda Dorado, there are barrel-aged Verdejos that are not fortified as well as Rueda Espumosa Sparkling wines. Perhaps one of my #WorldWineTravel colleagues will have found one of those!
There is so much more from this region of Spain and I can’t wait to read about the wines and regions the writers from #WorldWineTravel have explored!
- Co-host Allison of Advinetures shares Ribera del Duero: Spain’s Rising Star
- Co-host Lynn of Savor the Harvest introduces us to Unconventional in Castilla y Leon – Ismael Gozalo and MicroBio Wines.
- Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla pairs Patatas a lo Pobre + Losada Bierzo 2017.
- Steve of Children of the Grape explores Hemingway and the Plains of Spain.
- Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm is explaining why Abadia Retuerta Seleccion Especial is indeed a Special Selection.
- Terri at Our Good Life will be Exploring Castilla y Leon Through Wine and Food.
- David at Cooking Chat is tempting us with his Steak Picado Recipe with Ribera del Duero Wine.
- Jeff of FoodWineClick! reveals A Different Take on Castilla y Leon.
- Martin of Enofylz Wine Blog discusses Mesmerizing Mencia – The Star Grape of Bierzo; 2018 Raúl Pérez Ultreia St-Jacques.
- Lisa The Wine Chef reveals Castilla y Leon, Home of Spain’s Best Kept Secret: Wine, Dine and Stay in a Luxe 12th Century Abbey Overlooking World-Class Vineyards.
- Nicole at Somms Table tells us about A Phenomenal Feat at Emilio Moro.
- Linda at My Full Wine Glass discusses Rueda Verdejo – A crisp white alternative to Sauvignon Blanc.
- Susannah at Avvinare is Exploring Rueda’s Signature Grape, Verdejo.
- Lauren at The Swirling Dervish shares Dominio del Pidio Albillo: Tasting an Unusual Spanish White Wine in Miami.
- Gwendolyn at The Wine Predator shares Cristina Forner Leads Marques de Cacerés: Her Verdejo from Rueda with Barbacoa Tacos.
Sources and Resources
I also found a couple of informative videos on YouTube
And here is another great article with information on this region!
More on Spanish Wines!
Priorat DOQ in Spain’s Cataluña region and Franck Massard’s 2015 “Humilitat” #WorldWineTravel
Cava: Traditional Method Sparkling Wine from Spain
Viura – There is more to Rioja than Tempranillo #WorldWineTravel
Herederos del Marqués de Riscal Reserva Rioja 2014 – Day 11 of the 12 days of Wine 2020
Priorat: Medieval Monks, Modern Rebirth and Outstanding Wine from Spain
Fish tacos with avocado and purple cabbage slaw
Quick, easy, and colorful! Just enough for lunch for two. These are made with tilapia cooked in the oven, topped with avocados, a purple cabbage slaw, a corn relish, and some tarragon!
We paired this with a citrus salad and a beautiful bright Verdejo from Rueda Spain.
- 2 - 4 oz tilapia fillets
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt (divided)
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper (divided)
- 1 cup purple cabbage sliced
- 1 teaspoon mayonnaise
- 1 teaspoon blood orange juice
- 2 sprigs fresh tarragon (divided)
- 6 - 6 inch flour tortillas
- 2 tablespoon sour creme
- 1 avocado sliced
- 2 tablespoons corn relish
- Heat the oven to 375 degrees
- Toss the tilapia in olive oil salt and pepper
- Bake 10 minutes in a glass baking dish
- Mix the chopped cabbage, mayonnaise, a pinch of salt and pepper, honey, blood orange juice, and fresh tarragon. for the slaw
- Heat a pan or griddle and warm each tortilla on both sides.
- To plate, start with a schmear of sour creme, layer the tilapia, slaw, avocado, corn salsa, and fresh tarragon.
This is so quick and easy. Of course, with fish tacos, you can add anything. If you like your slaw more acidic, skip the mayo and maybe add more spice! The toppings are all up to you, we just added our favorites! It would be great with a squeeze of lime too!
Amount Per Serving Calories 916Total Fat 39gSaturated Fat 8gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 28gCholesterol 73mgSodium 1364mgCarbohydrates 98gFiber 13gSugar 5gProtein 46g
Nutrition information isn’t always accurate.
simple citrus salad
This simple salad is overflowing with all the fresh citrus I found! We included orange, pink grapefruit, blood orange, and kumquats, but you can use whatever you have on hand. Nest it on a bed of greens (we opted for little gem lettuce and arugula and we topped it with fresh tarragon. This was a side to go with fish tacos that we paired with a white wine from Spain, a Verdejo from the Rueda region.
- 1/2 orange supremed
- 1/2 grapefruit supremed
- 1/2 blood orange supremed
- 1/4 cup red onion sliced
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon of honey
- 1/2 teaspoon dried orange peel
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1 cup of little gem lettuce
- 1/2 cup of fresh arugula
- 1 sprig fresh tarragon
- 10 kumquats sliced thin
- Mix your supremed citrus, olive oil, honey, dried orange peel, salt, and pepper. Let this macerate while you prep the rest of your salad
- Make a bed of the little gem lettuce, top with arugula
- Spoon your citrus mixture on top
- Finish with the sliced kumquats and fresh tarragon.
Amount Per Serving Calories 199Total Fat 3gSaturated Fat 0gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 2gCholesterol 0mgSodium 279mgCarbohydrates 43gFiber 10gSugar 29gProtein 4g
Nutrition information isn’t always accurate.
Robin Renken is a wine writer and Certified Specialist of Wine. She and her husband Michael travel to wine regions interviewing vineyard owners and winemakers and learning the stories behind the glass.
When not traveling they indulge in cooking and pairing wines with food at home in Las Vegas.
We became instant fans of Verdejo after our visit to Rueda a few years back. We concur with your pairing suggestions (and Wine Folly’s) and often drink it with Mexican food. But as usual you’ve raised the bar and we’ll be looking to try this salad when the weather warms up here!
It was so easy, quick, and vividly beautiful! This was tasty and fun!
I loved our Verdejo and had crab cakes! Fish tacos sound amazing and I cannot wait to try the citrus salad. My mouth is watering!
Terri I loved the idea of your crab cakes with a Romesco sauce it sounds so perfect to pair with the Verdejo!
Your table also looks SO inviting! And I am not usually a fan of tilapia, but I’d make an exception for your beautiful tacos. Thanks, also, for the wine history lesson. I always learn so much from your posts, Robin. Cheers.
Thanks, Cam! The colors for these dishes were so vivid, it really made for a festive table!
You know, I really am into grape romances – lol! I find it fun to think of them all being caught in a big soap opera. This winery sounds so cool with their zero-waste goals and the wine and food spread looks delicious!
LOL! Of course, you are into grape romances! (Me too actually, this would make a great romance novel!) I love that the winery is a co-op with such history. More than looking out for the environment, they are looking out for the people, they are part of the environment!
Sounds like a high quality coop doing great things environmentally speaking. Nocturna is noted.
That’s so funny about the limes. I bought a bag of them and had the exact experience as you. Tis the season for fish tacos!
It is Fish Taco season indeed! Yesterday morning turned out to not be as springy as I had hoped, but today shows great promise!
I was impressed with this coop, and I too will be looking for the Nocturna.
Limes have been making their way back into my life! We did a sun basket order and several dishes contained them. Michael rarely uses a wedge of lime, so I’m back on the plus side for my lime storage!
Happy Spring Lynn! I’m dreaming of the Pyrenees, and can’t wait to hear all about your hikes and tastings!
It’s been a while since I opened a Verdejo wine; after reading your post (and salivating over your pairing) I’m motivated to procure a bottle or two. And I’m definitely making those tacos! Perfect as things start to heat up here in Miami.
Here’s to you enjoying white wine in Miami! I have several friends who I know would fall for Verdejo. Time to round up a few bottles and get some people hooked!
Your fish tacos look great, nothing wrong with just a nice lunch, contemplation not required!
Indeed! Sometimes a lunch pairing is just meant to be enjoyable, not thought-provoking.
This Rueda Verdejo sounds like a great wine! I want to taste more whites from this region!
It seems like there is so much to explore, just in this region! But we have to get on to the rest of Spain!
Robin I loved your recipes and plating photos, truly enticing. Your background history on Rueda and Verdejo was great too and the antique photos from the winery completed the picture. Great and engaging content. Cheers.
Thanks so much, Susannah. I was very happy the winery allowed me to use the photo to complete the picture of the history behind this co-operative.
Love the romantic stories and archival photos as well as your vividly colorful pairing! Verdejo is my new heartthrob. Making a mental note to pair with fish tacos and lime next time.
I have some friends that I need to turn on to Verdejo. Avid Sav Blanc drinkers that could do with some mixing it up. This is such a great way to expand wines for those who don’t dive as deep into the details as we do. My Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc loving friends will soon be looking for Verdejo! That I think is a good thing!
I’ve casually enjoyed Verdejo here and there, nice to gain some deeper appreciation via this article! The wine being a bit more rounded than Sauv Blanc is a good way to describe. The fish tacos pairing sounds perfect!
Thanks, David! I am really enjoying diving deeper into these Spanish regions this year.
Thanks for the great background on Rueda (which I didn’t know much about). I’m loving your salad and fish taco with your wine. I’m definitely a fan of Verdejo!
I am finding myself to be a Verdejo pusher these days. This is a great wine that doesn’t get enough attention.