Originating in North Africa, Verdejo is a white grape brought to the Rueda region of Spain by Iberian Christians under Moorish rule in the 11th century. What makes this wine so special is its rarity, and rarely is it found outside of Spain or highly specialized wine stores. Prior to the 1970s, Verdejo was often the main ingredient in sherry-style wines, as the oxidation lead to improved function for fortified wines.
The reason for its overall lack of cultivation lies in its oxidation, which occurs at a higher rate than almost every other white wine. However, the Spanish are a crafty bunch, and found a way to lessen the oxidation by harvesting the grape at night. At night, the temperatures are in the 50s, about 30 degrees lower than the day. Not only is it more comfortable for grape pickers, but it also slows the oxidation process. That's science for you.
When selecting a Verdejo, keep an eye out for the bottle type. A low-shouldered body is indicative of more oxidation, while straighter, narrower bottles have less oxidation and a fruiter taste. Purer forms between 85 and 100 percent Verdejo will be called Rueda Verdejo, while blends of around 50 percent will just say Verdejo.
Regardless of which style you pick, expect Verdejo to taste similar to the more-popular Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc. It has a similar pale gold color and a dry medium-bodied texture that lacks much sweetness. A high acidity is apparent on each sip, and while not overwhelming, hints of lime, grapefruit, melon, peach and fennel bring some flavor to this wine. Bottle-aging adds a richer texture and the finish of almonds to bring the wine full circle.
With high acidity and no lingering sweetness, Verdejo cleanses the palate, making it perfect for food pairing. Generally speaking, the Verdejo's limey taste allows it to mix well with lime-heavy cuisines such as Mexican food, but experimentation with lighter dishes will also help you find your sweet spot.
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