What the new DO Rueda classifications mean
by Miquel Hudin | 02-12-2019 | 4 Comments
DO Rueda has announced a hefty overhaul of their governing rules or pliego de condiciones. For a DO that most people think of in terms of, “White wines. Verdejo grape, a little Sauvignon Blanc. Fresh, clean. Next.” these changes will make things a bit more complicated, but they can be summarized as such:
- “Rueda” – Now the main name. No more Rueda Verdejo or Rueda Sauvignon varietal declarations on the front label.
- “Gran vino de Rueda” – Wines made from vines of 30+ years and 6,500kg/ha in total yield. Starts in 2020. ‘Different’ labels–whatever that means.
- “Rueda Pálido” – In a nutshell, Sherry from Rueda.
- “Vino de Pueblo” – Village denomination on the labels if at least 85% of grapes in finished wine are from a specific village.
- Sparkling “Gran Añada” – Any sparkling wine from the region that is aged at least 36 months prior to degorging.
- Viogner, Chardonnay – New permitted white grapes.
- Syrah – New permitted red grape.
This is the condensed version of all the changes that will soon be published and official in the pliego so you can see that there’s a lot to take in, some of it great, some of it odd, and some of it very, very interesting.
What immediately jumps out are the new grapes and especially the Syrah. Many are probably not aware, but red wines are actually allowed in Rueda, although total production is still 99.14% white wine. I’m reminded of how Rioja tried to incorporate a number of foreign grapes into their permitted list a few years back to basically backpedal on the whole premise as it makes things quite wonky to explain. Given that Rueda already allows Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in addition to Tempranillo and Grenache it’s not really too odd, I suppose.
Note that this addition of Syrah is quite different than what red-dominant DO Ribera del Duero did by allowing whites to be made with Albillo Mayor. That’s a traditional grape of the region which cellars were already growing in the delimited DO area and by embracing it, I feel that it’s actually making things clearer and stronger by bringing it into the fold. I’ve no clue how this Rueda Syrah bit will play out but it just seems weird, although there must be some wineries that are really pushing for it and have been making it under the IGT of Castilla y León until now.
Rueda and nothing more
I definitely applaud the focus on “Rueda” as the singular brand. While having the name and the grape below the name (if it was 85% or more of the finished wine) was pretty easy to understand, taking it off the front gives the image that they’re embracing a single style that defines Rueda as opposed to the individual grapes that go into it although it’s always been a minimum of 50% Verdejo for white wines under the generic “Rueda” name.
It takes a village to name a wine?
I don’t know how I feel about the “Vino de Pueblo”. There are some admittedly cool village names in DO Rueda like: La Zarza (the bramble), Pozal de Gallinas (hen pool), Fresno el Viejo (the old elm tree), Mojados (wet ones), or the most succinct, Pollos (chickens), but good lord, there are nearly 70 of them in total! Added into this is that while there may be one or two that are notable for their specific growing conditions, I can’t say I’ve been hearing people clamoring to know where their Rueda Verdejo is from exactly within the region. Also, are there a potential 70 individual identities to Rueda wines?
This is undoubtedly producer-driven as they’ve seen what’s happened in Priorat, Rioja, and Bierzo with in-depth and finite classifications. I just wonder how it will exactly play out and if it will make things more or less complicated.
I’m sure there were those who said the same thing 10 years ago when DOQ Priorat approved the Vi de Vila certification. How am I sure? Because people continue to question it and ultimately this classification has to be driven by the producers in the region with the best villages rising to the top.
The Gran Vinos
I think “Gran vino de Rueda” and “Gran Añada” for the sparkling wines speak for themselves and are straightforward. Again, will this matter to general drinkers of the wines? Time will tell but they look like potentially great options to have available.
A Pálido shines
What is probably most curious is the “Rueda Pálido”. In an article on The Drinks Business, the author, Barnaby Eales mistranslated (or Google Translated?) this. He took the Spanish, “Recuperando así, un vino que se obtiene por crianza biológica, permaneciendo en barrica de roble durante, al menos, los tres últimos años antes de su comercialización.” to mean that this was a wine with a three-year aging in barrel made from “organic” grapes.
The word “biológica” in this case doesn’t mean organic, that’s “ecológica” and in this case the biológica refers to aging under flor as an Sherry-like, oxidative wine. This is an old style of wine traditionally produced in Rueda and with this new certification, they’re giving it official status. As far as I know, it’s not a fortified wine which makes it a bit more similar to vi ranci with nutty oxidative notes to it. So this, is actually quite cool and emphasizes that Google Translate is not sufficient for journalistic purposes.
Again, a lot to take in and I’ve already seen people grumbling about these changes just as when any region in Spain works to have more granularity and definition. The same barometer isn’t used when the French do it for some reason which has always seemed more than a touch hypocritical. I have to say that overall, these are worthwhile changes and if it forces people to think of Spain in a more terroir-y kind of way, because they’re qualitative changes that define and hone a region.