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The Verdejo Grape

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About Verdejo

(Synonyms: Planta Fina, Verdeja.)


Map showing the Rueda region of Spain

Verdejo is a white-wine grape originating in the Rueda region of Spain, though possibly brought there from North Africa in the 11th century. It was long used for making sherry-like oxidized wines; it was only as recently as about 40 years ago that white table wines of Verdejo began to emerge. It is today used in blends, but also frequently made as a monovarietal bottling. Spanish wines labelled Rueda must be at least 50% Verdejo; if the label more explicitly says Rueda Verdejo, the Verdejo content must be at least 85% and is often 100%.

(Do not confuse Verdejo with Verdelho, nor with Gouveio, which is often called "Verdelho". There will be a quiz in the morning.)

Verdejo makes a fairly full-bodied wine. In many descriptions, it is a soft, rounded, almost creamy wine, with a full nose and flavor; qualities such as "honeyed" and "nutty" are often heard in descriptions of the taste. On the other hand, not a few descriptions are rather different, emphasizing tartness, acid crispness, minerality, and definite citrus notes. Clearly, there are significant variations in winemaking style for Verdejo, and one needs to decide which style best meets personal preferences (though both might well do so). One style clue is if the label description referes to lees contact: if so, it is likely to be the softer, creamier style. Two other taste notes: a taste often mentioned for Verdejo is fennel, which is a mild anise flavor; also, many descriptions refer to a slightly bitter finish, which is seen as varietally characteristic and desireable.

Factoid: Verdejo seems especially prone to oxidation; modern winemaking techniques have much reduced the scope of the problem as the wine goes into the bottle, but it is still possible to find the occasional oxidized bottle if reasonable care was not taken at all stages of transportation and storage.

Some Descriptions of Verdejo Wines

Some Verdejos to Try

(About this list.)

There is a myriad of reasonably priced Rueda Verdejos out there, and a great many have at least some critical recommendation. The ones shown below seem to be best rated by reviewers, though it may all be a matter of idiosyncratic tastes. Do be sure any Verdejo you buy is of a recent vintage, preferably the most recent on the market. Some do age, but the decision should be yours, not the retailer's.

The quotations below are excerpts; we strenuously urge you to click on the green diamond symbol by each quoted review to see the full article.
Francis Lurton Bodega Burdigala "Campo Alegre" Rueda Blanco
(Rueda, Spain.)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.

Some quotations and facts about this wine:

♣ For some unfathomable reason, some places list the vintner as "Bodega Burdicala"; beware.

The 2013 Campo Alegre is fermented in 600-liter oak barrels (one third) and the rest in inox and it’s pure Verdejo, clean and subtle with citric notes of orange rind and grapefruit, fresh and balanced. 89 Points. [Wine Advocate, August 2014

This muscular white is firm, full-bodied and savory in character, with leesy, ginger, pear and herbal notes. 90 points. [Wine Spectator 100 Top Values of 2016]

[The wine] is 100 percent verdejo from the Rueda region in northwest Spain. It is fresh, crisp and very food-friendly, with hints of sweet citrus. One of the goals, [a company representative] said, was to create a fresher style of verdejo. “One part is fermented in oak, which brings out the richness of the wine,” she said. “One part is fermented in stainless steel vats, which is a more common way of fermentation for a white wine, which brings out the freshness and the aromatics. And the last part is fermented in concrete, which adds aromatic complexity.”

Light, green-tinged yellow. High-pitched citrus and orchard fruit aromas show very good clarity and a hint of jasmine. Dry and nervy on the palate, offering juicy pear and Meyer lemon flavors and a hint of tarragon. Closes dry and spicy, with good lift and floral persistence. 89 points. [Vinous, September 2014

[O]ne of my favorite wines for Summer. Fresh and fragrant / floral and fruity with hints of herbaceousness.

Viña Sila Bodegas Naia Verdejo
(Rueda, Spain. Have a care: they bottle several differing Verdejo-based wines.)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.

Some quotations and facts about this wine:

The 2013 Naia is a serious Verdejo, clean and pure, with floral and white fruit aromas intermixed with some balsamic notes. The palate is very pleasant, with good volume and acidity, which is somehow counterbalanced by residual sugar. Very good value. 90 points. [Wine Advocate]

Light yellow-gold. Lemon zest, fresh fig, smoky minerals and white flowers on the highly perfumed nose. Brisk, tactile and focused, boasting excellent energy to its flavors of fresh citrus fruits, pear, pineapple and sweet butter. Finishes taut, fresh and long, with resonating mineral and floral notes. 91 points. [Antonio Galloni, Vinous]

Minerally, slightly dusty apple aromas lead into a well-balanced palate with body and zesty acidity. Peach, green melon and white-pepper flavors fade out on a pulpy finish with good acidic cut. 89 points.

Pear and apple flavors mingle with toast and mineral notes in this polished, modern white, which shows depth and focus, with firm acidity and a smoky finish. 89 points. [Wine Spectator]

Verdejo is generally meant to be consumed within a year, maybe two (though yes, that can vary). And a lot of what we’re currently able to get in the States isn’t the youngest (you’ll see more 2014 than 2015) but that doesn’t mean your bottle will be lacking. A moderate minerality and even a slight herbaceousness, amplified by notes of grass and splashes of lemon/grapefruit. Not that it’s all steely here; there’s a core of soft orchard fruit that will keep things lushly medium-bodied.

The Naia, though, has another goal in mind: A wine that is more than passable but not costing much more than the usual verdejo. In this, it succeeds. The Naia 2015 is a softer, more round version of verdejo, with white fruit (peach?) to go with the usual lemon, and the lemon is not nearly as pronounced as usual. There’s also an herbal something or other going on that rarely shows up in verdejo. Hence, the wine isn’t as straightforward and obvious, but less tart and more balanced. Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2017 Hall of Fame in a year when the candidates that actually cost $10 are few and far between.

Bodegas Ordoñez "Nisia" Old Vines Verdejo
(Rueda, Spain.)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
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• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.

Some quotations and facts about this wine:

The 2011 Nisia is made from 100% old vine Verdejo (the youngest vines were planted in 1942, and others are nearly 100 years of age). The wine is aged sur-lie, and fermented in both stainless steel and large format French oak. It is undeniably one of the finest Verdejos I have ever tasted. Yields were less than three tons of fruit per hectare, which is noticeable in the wine’s old vine intensity. Notions of caramelized white citrus and tropical fruit blossoms along with a naked, natural texture as well as finish make for a terrific dry white with loads of personality and complexity. This beauty sells for an absurdly low price. 91 points. [Wine Advocate]

The Nisia is a refreshing wine but balanced nicely. Refreshing wine usually has high acidity; the Nisia is just in perfect balance…A full aroma greets you right out of the glass; tropical and garden-fresh delights; lemon and other citrus flavors; a sufficient mouthfeel; very enjoyable on its own, no food required. Excellent choice as an aperitif. Just a great change-of-pace white wine. 90 points.

Apple, peach and melon aromas are clean and fruity. The palate on this Verdejo is melony, which matches the wine's melon and papaya flavors. On the finish, a note of apple cider is detectable. Because of moderate acidity and some flab, it's advisable to drink this now. 87 points.

Pale, green-tinged yellow. Pungent citrus and melon aromas are complicated by talc, mineral and fresh herb nuances. Light-bodied and gently sweet, offering intense orchard fruit and honeydew flavors and a touch of salty minerality. Finishes on a sappy nectarine note, with very good focus and cling. 90 points. [Antonio Galloni]

The result of this care and effort is a medium bodied, crisp, and delightful white wine. You can smell this inviting wine the moment you put it in your glass. Floral and fruit aromas combine evoking pineapple, honey suckle, mango, coconut, and ripe pear. It follows through on the palate providing great fruit notes such as white peaches, pineapple, and lemon, with surprisingly high acidity and a lingering finish.

This pleasing white comes from one of Spain’s driest regions where vineyards are situated in ancient river beds. Old vines dig deep into poor, sandy soils to dredge up nutrients captured in this bottling’s citrus and honeydew flavors. Light-bodied and vibrant on the palate…

Familia Martue Vinedos de Nieva "Blanco Nieva" Verdejo
(Rueda, Spain. This is not the upscale "Pie Franco" bottling.)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
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• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.

Some quotations and facts about this wine:

Yellowish with a green hue in the glass. What a nose on this beauty! Intense grassy, grapefruit aromas. This one is immediately fresh, crisp and vibrant on the palate with bright, zesty lime flavors over a stony, mineral backbone. Passion fruit emerges on the mid-palate and remains throughout the dry, refreshing finish. This wine isn’t shy. It will smack you over the head and you are going to like what you get. The firm acidity here makes this one a compliment for nearly any food (ceviche would be my first choice). It is also perfectly suited to drink on its own. Pair with a sunny day! I’m getting me some more of this one. Viva Verdejo! Rating: Wow!

This winery consistantly delivers an excellent, pure Verdejo under it’s eponymous label. This features strong aromas of nettle, passion fruit and green apple. The palate feel is a blend of zest and roundness, while flavors of citrus, grapefruit and green herbs precede a long finish. 90 points.

Verdejo is a nice-guy wallflower, a pleaser in search of its crowd. But what’s not to love? This drinks like a $30 New Zealand Sauvignon blanc, flush with turbinado-sugar-sprinkled pink grapefruit. Spine-tingling acidity serves as scaffold for a fleshy middle oozing ripe white peach. Both elegant and plain-ol’ thrilling, like that guy/gal whose presence lights up a room upon entry – but who also turns out to be charming, intelligent and life-affirming in conversation later on. Next time you have friends over for fish grilled or fried, open this and everyone’s eyes will open a bit wider.

[Google-translated from Spanish:] WHITE WINE TASTING NIEVA Verdejo 2012 IN 9 WORDS:
View: Yellow Straw. Nose: Fruit - Grass. Palate: Creamy-Unctuous. 91 points.

[Google-translated from Spanish:] The result is a classic Verdejo showing straw yellow with greenish iridescence and aroma medium to high, discreet, without fanfare intensity, but fine and persistent, with hints and notes of stone fruit, fresh fennel and a mineral background. The palate is fresh and fruity, but behind its cheerful serious taste hides great, tasty and unctuous wine full entry feelings. In short, a young, complex and sophisticated wine that combines perfectly with smoky, soft cheeses, ham, fish and seafood.

[Google-translated from Spanish:] The result is a Verdejo showing a bright, bright straw yellow color with greenish reflections. Intense and pleasant aroma invites you to learn more notes of white flowers, quince, dried herb and anise. Its entry into mouth gets surprised by his sense of pleasure. Sweet, fresh, fruity with hints of pear and apple filling mouth and gets to stay for a long time in perfect balance. In short, elegant wine, very fruity and very fresh, with the best value.

Grassy aromas along with capsicum, nettle and green fruit aromas are pungent and exciting. The palate is spritzy and lively, while the flavor profile balances sweet, candied green fruit flavors with more driving, intense tastes of lime and green melon. Forward, fun and elevated; drink now for ultimate freshness. 90 points.

[Google-translated from Spanish:] Beautiful pale yellow, light straw with bright green and steely glare. Shy nose, takes a while to drop whatever you have. From the classic aromas of aniseed touches and Verdejo stand wildflowers and exotic fruits. The palate is elegant, tasty and powerful without being heavy. Highlights the fruity notes, which makes it very harmonious. It is very balanced between bitterness and acidity. Our impression: Straw yellow, as good Verdejo, very limpid and transparent, clear aromas of exotic fruits. As is the rage this year, pineapple. Combines nicely this exotic touch to the traditional characteristic citrus taste. It has the right acidity, which makes it very refreshing. It would be ideal for a cocktail or aperitif wine. Our rating: *** (of 5)

Shaya Verdejo
(Rueda, Spain. Thisa is not the "Habis" bottling, which is our "splurge" choice.)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine has two CellarTracker review pages:
     » first page; and
     » second page.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.

Some quotations and facts about this wine:

With a bright nose of spice, kiwi, peach and spring flowers, this medium straw-colored wine delivers tropical fruit consistently on the palate from the start to its long finish. A perfect balance of fruitness and vibrant acidity, the wine has a heft to it provided by the aging of 40% of the juice in French oak. More subtle than American oak, this accounts for some of the 'baking spice' notes.

[Translated from Spanish:] We love the fruitiness of this Verdejo, as it stops short of being aromatically over the top. The old vines (a few centuries old) from Segovia from which it is made give the wine volume and smoothness on the palate. An elegant and very balanced white. Score - 91.

International Wine Cellar (September 2011), 90 points.

Wine Advocate (date unknown), 91 points.

The Verdejo grapes for the 2009 Shaya are sourced from both estate vineyards and local growers with vine age ranging from 75-112 years. The wine was barrel-fermented and aged on its lees. Medium straw-colored, if offers up an alluring aroma of baking spices, spring flowers, and peach. On the palate it has a creamy texture, vibrant acidity, and intense flavors leading to a lengthy, fruit-filled finish. It is a great value in dry, aromatic white wine that over-delivers in a big way. Bodegas Shaya is a new collaboration between the Gil family of Jumilla and importer Jorge Ordonez.”

Bright, green-tinged straw. Intense green apple, pear skin and lime aromas are complicated by white pepper and herbs. Taut and refreshingly bitter, with attractive herbal and mineral accents to the ripe citrus and orchard fruit flavors. Finishes clean and long, with an echoing peppery note.

Pale gold. Musky pear and pit fruit aromas are complicated by suggestions of honey, minerals and anise. Shows a suave blend of richness and vivacity, with a note of bitter lemon pith accenting deeply pitched orchard fruit flavors. Shapely and supple in texture, finishing with noteworthy length.

Stony aromas of nectarine and peach are the opening. This feels round and melony, with creamy melon, papaya and banana flavors that scream tropical more than mineral. A honeyed finish is sweet initially, then pithy on the close out. 87 points.

[O]ne of my very favorite Spanish white wines. In general, it beats Chardonnay hands down, 9 times out of 10 – buttery complexity on the palate, roll-of-your-tongue goodness, round and perfectly balanced. 8+

We decided to pair our light and creamy cheese with the 2009 Shaya Old Vines Verdejo. This Spanish wine was well-deserving of its 91 point rating. It had a pleasant aroma of citrus (particularly grapefruit and lemon) and a hint of honey. Those same notes of citrus and honey were on the palate after a slightly sweet start. It was light and bright with a nice, crisp finish. It also had a bit of creaminess that came out when paired with the fresh Asiago.

Finca Montepedroso Verdejo
(Rueda, Spain.)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.

Some quotations and facts about this wine:

The 2014 Verdejo from Finca Montepedroso is pure Verdejo sourced from the higher altitude zone in Rueda where the soils are alluvial. They swim against the flow to produce a wine that wants to showcase the variety; no Sauvignon Blanc is used, and it displays its rusticity but also its ability to develop in bottle. They harvest early to keep the acidity, and to give it more volume they keep the wine with the lees for five months. The wine was not bottled until March 2015. The nose is fresh and subtle with austere aromas (nothing tropical here), with notes of freshly cut grass, orange peel and something citric. The palate is fresh and with good acidity; it is still young and unevolved. I had the chance to taste 2013, 2012, 2011 and 2010 next to it to check consistency and aging potential, and the wines develop nicely at least five years after the vintage, turning deeper, mellow and with musky aromas of grapefruit, hay, straw, quince, a touch of yeast, camphor and smoke that reminded me of aged Cava. The pineapple notes that I saw in the 2013 last year were completely gone. Moreover, the character of each vintage showed very clear in the wines, as it should be. Bravo Lauren! 91 points. [Wine Advocate]

Despite recent criticism about Rueda's cheap Verdejo, 2014 was a great vintage in the region so consumers who come across serious producers will be rewarded. This wine, made by Rioja's Martínez Bujanda Family group, is excellent. Yellow colour with greenish hue. Fresh and well-defined fruit aromas (citrus, lychee, subtle passion fruit) followed by a lively, citrus, mouth-watering palate; fresh and nicely balanced. 16.0 points.

Color: Lemon yellow with green frosted twinkles, clean, bright and very glyceric tears. Nose: Clean aromatic ensemble, with high intensity. The notes of apricot, peach, fennel, green almond shell, anise seed, fresh fruits (lychee, grapefruit, green apple) show up. Recalls to fresh cut hay and light smoke touches mixed with mineral notes. Palate: Velvety and silky entry developing to great volume and structure. The balanced acidity gives freshness and nerve. Long and tasty, fruity aftertaste, with an aftertaste sensation even more intense than in the nose phase, sowing up the recalls of fennel and anise seed.

Oily aromas of citrus blend with leesy notes on a jumbled nose. This lacks freshness, while uncommitted flavors of lees and vitamins are slightly oxidized. Bitter citrus and pithy flavors control a finish that falls flat. 83 points.

Light gold. Aromas of white peach and passion fruit, with a hint of honey in the background. Smooth and fleshy on the palate, offering slightly sweet orchard and tropical fruit flavors and a hint of bitter lemon pith. Finishes a bit loose, with a subtle floral note. [Vinous, November 2015]

Fresh and focused, this white shows juicy peach, grapefruit and fennel flavors, with racy acidity giving way to a refreshing bitter note on the finish. 97 points. [Wine Spectator, Web Only, 2016]

For a Splurge

From the sea of Verdejo wine out there, it is hard to pick a real standout, but what may come closest is the Bodegas Shaya "Habis" Old Vines Verdejo.

• That wine at 1000 Corks
• That wine at Wine Searcher
• Its Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.
• Its CellarTracker pages.





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