The weather has turned warmer in Northern California and the evening light gets longer with each passing day. The sweet aromas of jasmine and almond blossoms are redolent of spring. We won’t be climbing into our unheated pool for a few weeks—a big-toe test still yields numbing results—but the arrival of the patio furniture has me thinking about the coming spring and summer days which are invariably enhanced by the perfect glass (or bottle) of wine.
Sweet memories of summers past are rose-colored, which is to say, we have enjoyed numerous bottles of rosé poolside with friends and family. And old habits die hard. But we are all capable of change.
So step away from the rosé. At least consider that there can be other grapes in the glass. How about a wine whose origins go back to Northern Africa ? It’s time to appreciate Verdejo.
Mainly grown in the Rueda region in Central Spain, Verdejo (pronounced ver-day-ho) has been used in winemaking since the 11th century. This sturdy white grape even survived the phylloxera that ravaged Europe. Wine drinkers familiar with Pinot Gris and Grüner Veltliner will appreciate this fruit-forward, crisp quaffer. Typically, the grapes are harvested at night and often by hand. This protects the integrity of the grape and prevents oxidation, preserving the vibrancy of color and flavor.
Winemakers traditionally age this varietal in stainless steel, yielding a light, grassy citrus-forward wine with hints of stone fruit. If oak is used it is typically neutral oak, which softens the mouthfeel of the wine and integrates the flavors of white peach and honeysuckle. This wine gladly accompanies grilled prawns, fresh oysters, pasta primavera, cheese and salads. In other words, warm weather cuisine!
Two affordable favorites:
• The crisp, vibrant and pretty Marques de Caceres Verdejo 2018 ($10, 13.5% ABV) from Spain. Available at most retailers.
•The bright, luscious and silky Tinto Rey Verdejo 2017 ($18, 12.5% ABV) from California. Available at matchbookwines.com.
So: Verdejo. All day, yo!