Its cultivation suffered a severe setback with the arrival of phylloxera, replaced in many cases by other higher yielding varieties; with the modernization of the Spanish wine industry gradually this excellent grape of strong personality has gone regaining its rightful place. This grape rich in iron, is usually harvested at night to be taken to the winery at a cooler temperature, in order to prevent the oxidation of the must. It is also called Botón de Gallo Blanco, Gouveio, Verdeja, Verdelho, or Verdello.
What makes it so special? Verdejo is sufficient in itself to give rich and lively monovarietal wines, with green and citrus hints, or also pear, apple green, or stone fruit hints, all on a good mineral base; still, it is also frequently blended with sauvignon blanc or with Viura / Macabeo, with which it is combined very well to give refreshing wines with a noticeable vegetal character. On the other hand, a Verdejo with good structure is capable of aging very well, leading to golden wines with reminiscent of honey and nuts.
In Rueda, Verdejo stronghold, this variety was used to make wines of “solera” with long aging in oak barrels so similar to sherry, which were once highly prized by the royal court; nowadays only a few continue to make this type of wine, while most of the production is destined to young and fruity wines, according to the tastes of the market. There is also a mutation in red of this variety, the Verdejo red or black, which is found mainly in Asturias.
Places of interest. Say Verdejo is the same to say Rueda, the appellation par excellence of this grape thanks to its remarkable altitude, geology and continental climate with marked differences in temperature, but from its rediscovery and renewed popularity, increasingly it is grown more in various wine regions of Spain such as Avila, Segovia, Toro, Castilla La Mancha, and the Canary Islands.
Although it is not well known outside our borders, Verdejo grape is also grown in Portugal, mainly in Madeira for the production of liqueur wines; also, it has been making its space into the cooler regions of southern Australia.
Any better pairings? Avoid wine with vegetables and salads is one of those rules that usually is not worth breaking; however, the greenery and acidity of the Verdejo grape can harmonize in a very nice way with a cool summer salad, especially one with a slightly sweet or bittersweet hint, like fruit. Another pairing only for adventurous vintners can be a Verdejo with fruit nuances to accompany the sushi.
For traditionalists, these wines are classic companions for fish of fine white meat such as hake, sea bass and sole, or even blue fish more fatty and ‘meaty’ like tuna, thanks to the good body that characterizes them. In the case of aged wines, it is recommended to combine with game birds. On the other hand, the character of Verdejo wines can harmonize very well with soft cheeses but with marked taste like Camembert, or one firmer as Emmental.
Other recommended options: rice with fish or mussels, seafood – like good grilled clams – or birds with mild flavor, like a chicken garnished with lemon and fine herbs; also important to note the slight aniseed or fennel hints, which usually have these wines to harmonize with sauces and condiments.