While red wines are produced here, it’s generally only the white wines that matter. Indeed, there is one vine in particular, Verdejo, which produces wines of great crispness and occasionally of wonderful richness and texture. Other white grapes are grown here as well: Viura is used for blending; Sauvignon Blanc is utilized for aromatics; and Palomino is grown here because, not so long ago, Rueda wines were all rancio in style, and that oxidized style lent itself better to the Palomino grape. But in the 1970s Marqués de Riscal, assisted by the Bordeaux enologist Emile Peynaud, led a charge to create a fresh white wine and saw an affinity between the grapes Verdejo, Sauvignon Blanc, and Viura. They blended them, giving Verdejo an opportunity on the stage, but a little Sauvignon Blanc can shout down many other grapes.
Growers such as Ángel Rodríguez were instrumental in promoting the Verdejo grape as a stand–alone variety and in sustaining the vine during a long era of disinterest; by keeping the faith, they provided the plant material that has seen Verdejo explode in the DO, as well as outside of it. Verdejo is finally being heralded on its own, though it is often found with the supporting actors Sauvignon Blanc and Viura, mainly because there isn’t enough Verdejo to go around.
The DO has grown to nearly 20,000 acres (20% of that is planted to red varieties) with the clay and sand soils providing reasonable water retention during the warm times, and a relatively mellow landscape allows healthy yields and even vintages. The label Rueda Superior requires at least 75% Verdejo, while the simple Rueda only demands 40% Verdejo and/or Sauvignon Blanc, with the remainder comprised of Viura or Palomino (usually Viura).
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