Rueda is a DO (Denominación de Origen) in the northwestern autonomía of Castilla y León. Records of winemaking date back to the 11th century AD, after King Alfonso VI reclaimed the area from the Moors and viticulturally inclined monasteries spread throughout the region. Verdejo wines from the region enjoyed great commercial success until phylloxera arrived in 1890. Rueda recovered, but the wines produced after the blight were made for bulk rather than quality, and the region’s reputation suffered. In the early 1970s winemakers began to pay more attention to the area as a source of high-quality white wines, and Rueda was rewarded DO status in 1980. Rueda is again internationally acclaimed for its fine white wines made from the Verdejo grape.
Today, anyone with even the slightest interest in historic ruins would be awestruck by a visit to Rueda and the surrounding Castilla y León. The landscape is filled with Romanesque monasteries and churches; Medieval battlements; and fortress-mansions of the nobility known as ‘hidalgos,’ or free men. And like Galicia, Castilla y León was a major destination for pilgrims. Religion is deeply rooted in the area and its visual culture is ubiquitous.
In terms of cuisine, soups and stews feature heavily due to the long, cold winters in Castilla y León. Chickpeas are a staple, and blood sausages and roasts play a recurring role.
Rueda has a Continental climate, slightly moderated by its proximity to the Atlantic and Mediterranean but still subject to extreme heat and cold. Rainfall is moderate to low, and the Duero River flows westward through the region. The soil is mostly gravel, poor in organic materials, with good ventilation and drainage. Rueda’s climate and altitude enable Verdejo grapes to develop favorably and create aromatic and fresh yet full-bodied wines.
Rueda whites are based on the Verdejo grape, with Viura and Sauvignon Blanc sometimes used for blending. They are typically fermented in stainless steel, and their lively fruit flavors and zesty acidity have made them an international favorite. They can be drunk on their own or accompanied by antipasti or other light fares.