While drinking on a school night is nothing new for the Social Bitches, last Wednesday, around seven, it was a voyage of discovery. Revealing four gorgeous vinos, and the lesser known region of Rueda – where many of Spain’s best white wines are produced. Minds blown, bottles empty, but let’s start at the beginning …
Over a generous mouthful of sauvignon, and a creamy brie, we ask ourselves an important question. How can it be that Rueda has been producing top notch wine for roughly a thousand years, and we’re only just hearing about it this evening??
The person we have to thank for shedding light is the fabulous Diana Thompson of Wine Events Scotland. A beacon of hope for wine buffs, and serial imbibers such as ourselves, she’s hosted a staggering 175 virtual wine tastings over this last mad year.
Unlike a tasting in the real world, here [ in one’s very own Georgian drawing room ] you can consume wine by the bottle, rather than the glass. What a relief! Meanwhile the age old debate of spits versus swallows seems utterly irrelevant.
The bottom line is: you can drink like a sailor, but still learn much in the process, something of great appeal to a Social Bitch.
So once the laptop is in place, and we’ve thrown together a gazing board of epic proportions, we are ready to drink / learn / drink a lot more.
The cheeky drop we currently have in hand is the Bodegas S-Naia Sauvignon Blanc. Wonderfully fresh and vibrant, we love its floral aroma and rich tropical notes.
Sauvignon blanc is of course a grape that tells the story of where it’s from. So in New Zealand – a place we’re reasonably familiar with – you get the classic flavours of grassy asparagus and gooseberry. Meanwhile this delightful specimen offers a taste almost of passionfruit or pineapple. It’s gorgeous.
We try to look graceful as we lunge towards a second glass, while also vigorously consuming as much cheese, pate and Iberico pork as humanly possible.
Diana, font of all wine knowledge, encourages us to explore the sauvignon’s complex aroma [ oops, might have to pour a third glass ] and begins to explain why the Rueda region is one of the best places we’ve never heard of.
For a start, it’s home to the Verdejo grape, which counts for 86% of the wine produced here. Renowned for being aromatic, full bodied, and with a soft acidity, it’s like a grown up sauvignon blanc.
So in other words, dear wine lovers, expect a richer flavour and texture, as well as hints of herbs, hay and a shedload fruit.
Speaking of which, time to uncork our second bottle – the Diez Siglos Verdejo. An organic, sustainably produced wine, which like every bottle tonight is also vegan.
Fresh, full-bodied, and rather dazzling, its nuanced taste is created by grafting the grapes on to old vines. This means less fruit, but a much more intense flavour.
But what’s even more miraculous about Verdejo, it can be paired with just about any food you care to suggest. Yes, seriously. Even lamb. Once again, our wine-soaked minds are blown!
Diana highly recommends lamb skewers, marinated with garlic, a little cumin and a dash of yoghurt, then barbecued. While rumours of spring have been much exaggerated, we are quite literally drooling at the thought.
The secret to Verdejo’s success is its high acidity, and a subtle dash of bitterness, making it the ideal palette cleanser. So unlike many white wines, this wonderful grape is not at all fazed by sharp vinaigrettes, raw onion, or even fresh chilli.
The likes of sardines, calamari and mussels are also a perfect pairing. As is guacamole, fresh salsa, and the spiciness of Asian noodles. And just like sauvignon blanc, it’s wonderful with cheese hard or soft. Bless!
Soon, we’re noting the deep character and richness of the Bodegas K-Naia Verdejo. Seen as being a rock star producer, its simple, aromatic style offers hints of melon, peach, and herbaceous characters.
Definitely one to pair with those lamb skewers on the barbie, it’s quite possibly the favourite of the night. Our only remaining, somewhat troubling question: what on earth does the K stand for??
Sharing more of Rueda’s delicious secrets [ but not that one ] Diana explains its vineyards are about half a mile above sea level. This means a much cooler temperature, even in summer. Thus, a longer ripening process that ultimately preserves the soft acidity Rueda is famous for.
This might also explain why 87% of this stunning wine remains in Spain. Making it challenging to find in Scotland, especially if you’re hoping for several varieties from the one shop. Though we’re told the life-saving Great Grog is a good place to start.
We finish our virtual tasting with the Bodegas Naia Verdejo. Not only does it utilise 90 year old vines to sumptuous effect, it takes a unique approach to ageing: 70% in stainless steel vats, and the rest in French oak barrels of different sizes.
Once blended, the result is magic. Leading us to agree with wine master Tim Atkin, that: Naia tastes every bit as good as it looks, thanks to its winning combination of pear, citrus, subtly-oaked spice, and a taut chalky mineral-edged tang.
Having drained four wonderful bottles, and fallen in love with Rueda, we feel our summer wine menu is looking fabulous to say the least! We can’t wait to explore the other seventy or so wineries the region boasts.
Meanwhile, lots of love & thanks to Diana for making this liquid introduction, and inspiring us to indulge, yet again.
Reviewed March 2021
Wine Events Scotland
See Diana’s website for future events & virtual wine tastings
The amazing + independent Edinburgh wine merchant
All wines featured in this article are £10 – £12
For more information on the Rueda region: