Back in August 2011, my father sadly passed away in the middle of all the changes and one of my tasks in Europe will be to sort out his estate. The first thing I have to do is sell his car. As he lived in a beautiful part of South West France near Auch I have to drive the English car (!) back to Blighty to get all the paperwork and on my way back to France I stopped at a good friend of mine, Eric Sabourin of Falcon Vintners, to share a meal, a couple of great Barolo’s from 1964 and 1971, along with 1982 Bollinger RD and a 1985 Echezeaux (the producer escapes me).
After stopping off in Auch on my way down to Spain, I meet up with a Kiwi winemaker, Amy Hopkinson, and her fiancé, Olly in the fortified town of Olmedo, south of Valladolid in the Rueda grape region. This area, at 900 metres altitude, has old glacial soils with alluvial wash (essentially large river rocks), limestone and lots of clay. It is the home of the Verdejo grape variety whose flavour profile of greengage and pear is matched with a crisp acidity. Being a high glycerol producer it tends to have richer texture but unfortunately it also tends to oxidise easily. It is often blended with Sauvignon Blanc, which adds zest and freshness, or Viura, which tends to make it rather simple.
With urbanisation, many vines were grubbed up or converted from bush vine to Vertical Shoot Positioning trellises (VSP) to enable mechanisation. With growing interest in more unusual varieties over the last 15 years, Verdejo is making a small comeback.
After breakfasting on a rather luminous yellow tortilla, we set out to Bodegas Miguel Arroyo in the even smaller village, Puras, where we help with pressing the Verdejo, the local grape variety and undertaking some dynamic flotation, something I haven’t seen before. The use of Dry Ice and highly reductive techniques help keep the Verdejo from oxidising and retain its freshness. This project, as Amy calls it, is to highlight what Verdejo can do and it has been picked from 80-100 year old vines that will aid concentration and give structure although this is still an early drinking wine. Apart from Arroyo we tried the delicious 2010 Bodegas Jose Pariente and the rather less delicious 2010 Villarella Verdejo.
Happy rating: 8/10