In northwest Spain lies the region of Rueda, the Denominación de Origen (D. O.) that covers wines in the Castilla-y-León region. Here the dominant variety is Verdejo, a grape that is indigenous to the area which produces a dry and aromatic white wine that is rapidly growing in popularity worldwide. We had the opportunity to taste at Bodegas José Pariente, one of the top white wine producers in Rueda. A true family winery, it is run by Victoria Pariente and her daughter Martina Prieto Pariente. Named after Victoria’s father, the winery pays homage, both in name and quality, to his passion for well-made white wine.
Although the winery itself was only officially established in 1998, Victoria’s father José began producing wine in the 1960’s making a name for himself as a great winemaker with unparalleled standards. Wine production in the region itself dates back to around the eleventh century. According to Victoria, Rueda was recognized as a producer of fine wine during the height of Spain’s Golden Age in the 1600s. It is a cool climate region where vineyards typically sit anywhere between 600m and 800m above sea level. She goes on to explain that the soil type is “cascajo” (gravelly) which is “a poor stony soil that makes for strong healthy vines.” The altitude results in a large diurnal range between the high and low temperatures throughout the day giving the wines a distinct acidity, while the soil type provides for an equally distinct minerality.
The result is perfect growing conditions for Verdejo, a grape variety that is known in part for being hardy enough to withstand the harsh climate. The common characteristics of Verdejo wines is their freshness and acidity balanced with citrus fruits and herbaceous notes. Verdejo grapes are typically harvested at night to preserve these distinguishing aromatic notes. It is a wine that is usually intended to be drank reasonably young, although the higher quality ones have definite cellaring potential.
We have become big fans of Spanish whites, particularly from Rueda, Ribera del Duero, and Rias Baixas, which offer wines that have a juicy acidity coupled with a nice, rich texture. They tend to be particularly good crowd-pleasers when unsure if our guests are Chardonnay fans or prefer Sauvignon Blanc. These wines seem to satisfy both palates and because they are less discovered worldwide, we have also found them to be terrific value.
While José Pariente has been built on the Verdejo grape, they produce a fine Sauvignon Blanc as well. The climate also suits this grape well and the result is a Sauvignon Blanc that is wonderfully aromatic without being overpowering, or even pungent, as we sometimes find when compared to its New Zealand counterparts.
In 2008, the winery expanded its facilities to ensure it was equipped with the latest technology. The building itself is a very clean modern structure that makes a stunning impression when first spotted amongst the vines as you begin to approach the property. Martina led us on a tour of the winery which is laid out on the ground floor to show us firsthand everything from their stainless-steel tanks and wooden barrels, to their stabilization chamber and concrete eggs.
After the tour, she led us upstairs to their reserve tasting room which features a large window overlooking the vines—the perfect backdrop with which to enjoy their wine. We tasted through four of their wines including their flagship Verdejo (2015 vintage), their Verdejo that is barrel fermented (2014 vintage), their 2014 Cuvée Especial, and their 2015 Sauvignon Blanc. Specific tasting notes are below but overall, each of these wines were of exceptional quality.
Bodegas José Pariente has certainly earned its reputation as a top producer of white wine. Named after a man who constantly strived to make the very best wine possible, the torch has successfully been passed to his daughter and granddaughter as demonstrated by the state-of-the art facility and the wines that are currently being produced. We have no doubt José would be extremely proud to see that the standard he set with respect to both quality and passion in the vineyards, is very much alive at the winery today.
2015 José Pariente Verdejo
Classic Verdejo, this is a crisp wine with citrus fruit and floral notes on the nose, rounded out with stone fruits on the palate. This is an intense wine that manages to be quite elegant thanks to its balance.
2014 José Pariente Verdejo (Fermentado en Barrica)
Barrel fermentation, this Verdejo is bigger in style than the flagship above. Still fruit forward but there is a ripeness to the fruit that is more peach and pear than citrus backed with notes of wood, smoke and a hint of spice.
2014 José Pariente
A beautiful combination of the above two wines, this is wine that is well structured and very complex, particularly for a white wine. Intense but smooth, there is more minerality to this offering which also has a surprisingly long finish.