Every so often, Rueda, a D.O. (denominación de origen) in central Spain, comes my way. Along with torrontes from Argentina, these wines are among the best values you will find in the aromatic white wine world, yet they are often overlooked. Granted, Rueda is not nearly as scenic a region as Rias Baixas on the Galician coast, but as albariño prices have risen, Rueda’s whites have remained fairly consistent values.
Predominantly a white wine region, Rueda is located in Castilla y Leon, west of Madrid, where verdejo is the reigning grape. There is also quite a bit of sauvignon blanc, which shares verdejo’s citrus, stone fruit and herbal characteristics. Viura, the white wine grape of Rioja, and palomino, which is best known for sherry, are also planted. There are some reds as well, made from the indigenous grapes tempranillo and garnacha, in addition to cabernet sauvignon and merlot.
I’ve never had a wine from Rueda that I felt could age the way some sauvignon blanc can, but that is not my expectation. If I’m looking for a white wine that is fruity yet vibrant and fresh, Rueda is a great fit. While it is a style of wine most popular in warmer months, I don’t discriminate and am often happy to start off an evening or enjoy a seafood dish with a wine that has Rueda’s zesty character.
Here are three of the best you will find in the Bay Area:
Nidia Rueda, 2011: Made from 22-year-old vines at 2,200 feet, Nidia is one of Rueda’s newest wineries. Up until recently, the grapes were sold to other producers, but now Nidia’s owner, Daniel Torio, makes 3,000 cases with the help of José Lorenzo, an experienced winemaker in the area. It is crisp and fragrant with an array of stone fruits and lemon rind. Retail price: $14
Bodegas Aldial Lanzos Blanco, 2012: Technically, this is not Rueda, instead bearing the label VlT (vinos de la tierra) Castilla y Leon. However, it is made in Rueda and is composed of equal parts verdejo and sauvignon blanc (which is allowed under the D.O.). Light and lively, with lemon and nectarines, it is a soundly made wine. Retail price: $14
Javier Sanz Rueda, Rey Santo Verdejo, 2012: The name Sanz is common in Rueda, so be sure to select the right one when you make your purchase. Rey Santo is an especially value-driven line from property. Nonetheless, all of the fruit is from the estate, and this wine is 100 percent verdejo. With a musky, guavalike nose, it is more exotic than many other wines from the region and, for its price, offers a refreshing array of citrus with hints of basil and tarragon. Retail price: $14
These wines can be found at Arlequin, Bi-Rite, Faletti Foods, San Francisco Wine Trading Company and The Spanish Table. Pamela S. Busch is a wine writer and educator who has owned several wine bars in San Francisco, including Hayes and Vine and CAV Wine Bar & Kitchen.