The #WorldWineTravel group focuses on Spain this year and our March destination takes us to Castilla y Leon. The largest Spanish administrative community holding fourteen wine regions, it’s vast with history, castles and a wine culture that predates the Romans. I’m taking you to the Rueda area for an unconventional surprise.
Savor the Harvest is co-hosting this month with Allison and Chris from AdVINEtures. You’ll find us conversing on Twitter March 27th with several other group members who are listed below with their link and article information.
Rueda, A Story of One Grape
Two hours north of Madrid, the Rueda Denominación de Origen (D.O.) viticultural area is located in highlands 1,900 to 2,600 feet (600-800 meters) above sea level. It lies within Castilla y Leon and is roughly the same elevation as Mendoza, Argentina.
Smaller family farms dot the dry and breezy landscape which receives minimal rain, gets very hot in summer and extremely cold in winter. The higher altitude means huge diurnal shifts during the growing season (20 plus degrees Celsius differences) which helps grapes maintain higher acidity.
This intense climate is well adapted to more organic forms of agriculture without chemical use. Most growers always farmed that way, minus any certification.
Approximately 1,500 growers provide grapes to 67 wineries. White grapes dominate (98%) and of those, about 93% are one grape: Verdejo. Viura (aka Macabeo), Palomino Fino and Sauvignon Blanc, and a very small amount of red grapes- Garnacha, Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot- are also grown. Viognier, Chardonnay and Syrah are newer additions permitted under D.O. rules.
“For centuries this region produced fortified, solera-aged wines from the Verdejo grape, but their popularity declined and a new approach was needed to rejuvenate the area’s wine industry. Salvation came in the form of Marques de Riscal, working with renowned French oenologist Emile Peynaud, who decided to investigate Rueda as a potential site to make a white wine to partner his red Riojas. Using the local Verdejo grape, and taking advantage of the region’s high altitude, its challenging climate and well-drained soils, Rueda was found to be an ideal place to make fresh, lively white wines.” Christine Austin for Decanter
Those fortified wines that were popular way back? They’re presently having a comeback, and I’m keeping my eyes and palate open!
A Different Way in Segovia
Grower and winemaker Ismael Gozalo was one of the first to be organically certified on the Segovian side of D.O. Rueda, although his family’s vines have not seen chemicals for five generations. His home base there is the town of Nieva in the south central part of Castella y Leon where the Verdejo grape is prominent. Some of his vines are pre-phylloxera ungrafted Verdejo. He works with a handful of red grapes from around Castel and Leon too.
Of the 30 hectares (74 acres) of family-owned vines, he works with just five, selling the remainder.
Some of them go to Ossian, a winery he co-founded and which put his work and name on the map. Gozalo moved on to focus on his MicroBio Wines project in 2004 (although he started it in 1998) with two wine lines: one more classic and the other more experimental. Based on reading about him, his work and methods, the classic might be considered experimental for many. They are natural wines.
When it comes to land and nature, he is an unwavering defender seeking pure expression of the grape variety and terroir from which it comes. To do this, he incorporates the philosophy of Biosinergias into his viticulture and winemaking, a movement predating Steiner’s biodynamics by 2,000 years. They believe in destiny and balance between soil, plant, and fruit… a sort of bio-synergy.
As far as vinification, Gozalo utilizes a variety of fermentation and aging methods and vessels: stainless steel, barrels, foudres (large barrels), amphorae, demijohns, skin contact, and lees and oxidative aging, plus others.
All wines are spontaneously fermented. None are fined, filtered, nor touched except for racking between the different vessels while aging. A minimal additional of SO2 (sulfur dioxide) occurs on very rare occasions. Sometimes this means the wines are a little cloudy, but has nothing to do with quality.
Here’s the unconventional part- Gozalo’s minimalist and non-intervention approach carries to his bottles; none of his wines are bottled under geographic indications. Not D.O. Rueda and not Castilla y Leon Vino de la Tierra (VT) but simply sold as Vinos de España (wines from Spain).
Why does one choose to bottle outside the appellation? It gives the winemaker room to experiment and try new things that might not be possible under appellation rules.
Gozalo does try new things. His projects include research of naturally occurring yeasts in various plots and massal selection of about 150 Verdejo vines which he then used to plant six hectares with different Verdejo biotypes. Did I mention any juice that won’t fit in his chosen aging vessel is put in demijohn and buried underground to age.
Gozalo is called “El Mago de las Verdejos” (the magician of Verdejo) in his native region of Rueda.
Microbio Wines Correcaminos Blanco 2019
I tasted one of Gozalo’s classic wines made from 100% Verdejo. The name, Correcaminos, translates to road runner.
It was cloudy, it was fresh, and it was bright! Serious crispness in the mouth, it races around showing off its mixed citrus, green pear and creamy white peach character, sliding past the stop line revealing a saline and fennel finish that doesn’t want to stop.
If you’re interested in knowing the vinification of this wine, click over to MicroBio Wines.
Retail price: $25 / 15.50€
Find #WorldWineTravel group on Twitter March 27th 11am EDT, 17:00 CET
- Allison of AdVINEtures declares Ribera del Duero: Spain’s Rising Star.
- Co-host Lynn of Savor the Harvest introduces us to Unconventional in Castilla y Leon – Ismael Gozalo and MicroBio Wines.
- Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla pairs Patatas a lo Pobre + Losada Bierzo 2017.
- Steve of Children of the Grape explores Hemingway and the Plains of Spain.
- Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm explains why Abadia Retuerta Seleccion Especial is indeed a Special Selection.
- Terri at Our Good Life is Exploring Castilla y Leon Through Wine and Food.
- David at Cooking Chat tempts us with his Steak Picado Recipe with Ribera del Duero Wine.
- Jeff of Food Wine Click! reveals A Different Take on Castilla y Leon.
- Martin of ENOFYLZ Wine Blog discusses Mesmerizing Mencia – The Star Grape of Bierzo; 2018 Raúl Pérez Ultreia St-Jacques.
- Lisa The Wine Chef reveals Castilla y Leon, Home of Spain’s Best Kept Secret: Wine, Dine and Stay in an Luxe 12th Century Abbey Overlooking World-Class Vineyards.
- Robin at Crushed Grape Chronicles shares Rueda and Verdejo Just Keep Rolling with the #1 White Wine in Spain!
- Nicole at Somm’s Table tells us about A Phenomenal Feast at Emilio Moro.
- Linda at My Full Wine Glass discusses Rueda Verdejo – A Crisp White Alternative to Sauvignon Blanc.
- Susannah at Avvinare is Exploring Rueda’s Signature Grape, Verdejo.
- Lauren at The Swirling Dervish shares Dominio del Pidio Albillo: Tasting an Unusual Spanish White Wine in Miami.
- Gwendolyn at Wine Predator posts Cristina Forner Leads Marques de Cacerés: Her Verdejo from Rueda with Barbacoa Tacos.