The Event
Medieval Vines of the Rueda
© by Sheral Schowe
Spain is full of back road treasures undiscovered by most wine lovers due to their distant proximity to major cities and towns. Thanks to Classical Wines of Spain, I was introduced to one such treasure in Spain's Rueda wine region.

Half-way between Madrid and Rioja, the Rueda has become well known for its concentrated, red wines. It is now emerging as a popular white wine region as well. The variety responsible for its success is the Verdejo. In the 1970's the Verdejo was in danger of being ripped out completely from the Rueda, and replaced by the Viura and Palomino varietals, which are prolific producers.

One winemaker in the Rueda, Angel Rodriguez, had the courage and the passion to save his 17th century vineyard of Medieval Verdejo vines from economic and political pressures to do otherwise. In fact, King Juan Carlos officially honored him for his untiring efforts of reestablishing Verdejo's prominence in its region of origin.

The original vineyard site of Martinsancho is less than one acre of 350 year old, twisted, gnarled vines, which are pruned close to the ground. They are treasured by nurseries throughout Europe as an isolated, museum of pre-phyloxera viticulture. In 1976, Angel Rodriguez regrafted 25 acres of his best vineyard, using Martinsancho cuttings. His wines are vinified from the grapes of his original 350 year old plot with the newer, 25 year old parcel.

Always in search of quality rootstock and excellent examples of horticulture, Leland, Wanda, and Troy Mitchell of Mitchell's Nursery accompanied me to the vineyard. We found a vineyard of solid, large, rounded alluvial soil of pure gravel that extends to a depth of over 30 feet. The harsh climate, extreme altitude of Old Castile and the austerity of the soils, create an inhospitable environment for any type of insect or bacteria. This allows for the practice of completely organic viticulture. Nurserymen from around the world visit the Martinsancho vineyard to discover its unique qualities.

At the Martinsancho winery, a subterranean bodega is equipped with 5,000-liter oak casks, which have been in use for centuries. Two glass tanks of 20,000 liters are used for the initial fermentation, then transferred to the underground casks for clarification and rounding. The bottling is accomplished at a cooperative, in the center of the town, La Seca, Valladolid.

At the Rodriguez home, across the street from their bodega (winery), I was treated to Angel's latest release of Martinsancho Verdejo. It was a light yellow straw color with a floral, grassy, herbaceous nose. The palate is clean, fresh, and crisp, with ripe apple, melon, lemon, almond and smoke with a little anise on the long lasting finish. An excellent example of Spain's finest Verdejo wine served by gracious, humble people with a rich Spanish heritage, dating back for many centuries.

You can purchase Martinsancho Verdejo in Utah's wine stores with many cases available. Try this wine with seafood and poultry dishes and a wide variety of appetizers.

Dec. 31, 2000

Back to the Sheral Schowe on Wine Index