Verdejo wine grape

Pronounced “verr-DEH-ho” this highly aromatic white variety is native to Rueda in north central Spain, and until very recently was found nowhere else.  Forty years ago it was rare even there, but in the early 70s the Rioja producer Marqués de Riscal wanted to add a fresh, aromatic dry white to their lineup and decided Rueda was the place to do it.  They based it on the local Verdejo but also introduced Sauvignon Blanc.
The wine was a huge success across Spain, inspiring other local producers to abandon their traditional sherry-styled wines and follow suit.  By 2004 Verdejo was the dominant variety in the region.  Over the next seven years plantings trebled, and it can now be found in other parts of Spain.  Most of it is still within the broader Castilla y León region that encompasses Rueda, but it has spread south to Extremadura and Castilla - La Mancha.
According to a DNA study carried out in 2013, Verdejo is probably a natural cross between Savagnin (Traminer) and the rare Castellana Blanca.  However, this was based on analysis of just 20 DNA markers, so the case is not conclusively proven.  Earlier studies had established that it definitely is a sibling of Godello.
Its thin-skinned berries have a distinctive blue-green bloom that gives the variety its name, which means ‘greener’ or ‘greenish’.  It smells green too, of laurel, grass and gooseberries.  These fresh scents are backed by high acidity, even in the baking summers of Spain’s central plateau.  The combination is very similar to Sauvignon Blanc, but Verdejo differs by being much fuller-bodied and often shows a slight almond bitterness on the finish.  It can age well, either oaked or unoaked, with the nuttiness increasing over time.

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