Who knew Halle (near Brussels) could feel like Spain or even feel like summer in middle of winter?! Andy De Brouwer did as he was the one to create this oasis in his restaurant Les Eleveurs (aka a Walhalla for food and wine 🙂 ) together with the Rueda wine region. Rueda might not seem too familiar, but Verdejo might ring a bell for more people as it is without any doubt the Spain’s most famous white wine… or one of as technically speaking Sherry (Jerez) is also a white wine 🙂
The Rueda region is located in the North of Spain between Portugal and that other very famous Spanish wine region Rioja. You can see it as the Spanish part of the Portuguese Douro valley as the Duera (Douro) river continues its path in this region. The vineyards/vines in the Rueda region are planted 700 to 800 meters above sea- level on dark grey – brown soils… mostly stony (but easy to farm), with good ventilation and draining. Important to know is that the soil is very rich of calcium and magnesium essential for a good development of the vines.
I must rephrase what I said before as I said this region mostly know for it white wine, but it does also have some world renowned red’s of Toro, Ribera del Duero and Leon. The wine grape of Toro, called Tinta de Toro, has long been considered a mutant of Tempranillo (one of the main grapes in the Rioja region). Today we’ll be focusing on the white wines.
Why I referred to summer is because the Rueda wines or Verdejo is the perfect wine for on a warm summer’s day in the garden under a pergola with some olives or some thinly sliced Parma ham or Pata Negra. Basically an everyman’s friend… young, playful, refreshing, smooth and floral. Typically Verdejo wines are aromatic (very fruity), often soft, and full-bodied. That full-bodyness it has to thank to the altitude on which the grapes are grown (+600m)
If Andy wouldn’t have told me it would have taking me much longer to find out what the smell and taste of the Verdejo reminded me of, as it did remind me of something I had tasted before… Apparently the Verdejo grape is a sister grape of Sauvignon Blanc and therefore has more or less the same notions as a Sauvignon Blanc and the confuse the enemy even more they sometimes also blend the 2 grape kinds together 🙂 . Sooo being a Sauvignon Blanc lover it won’t come as a surprise I like Verdejo wines as well??!! Also this was the reason it seemed so familiar. But do keep in mind that it are young wines that should be drunk young as they are not really aging material… also most Verdejo or Rueda wines in general (white ones) haven’t seen too much wooden barrels, which also isn’t necessary as it would make this already lovely wine more complex without too much reason if it would stay a long time in wooden barrels:-).If they blend the Verdejo with the Sauvignon Blanc it will make a richer and more aromatic wine.
We can do is a make a little distinction between the wines that are really ‘apero’ material as other do require a little snack or dish with it… From the 9 wines we tasted, the first 3 were the perfect example of non expensive (around 7 EUR) ‘apero’ or ‘summery’ wines (don’t get me wrong all 9 go well without food, but the 3 first best). The wines I’m talking about were a 2013 Rueda Verdejo by Marqués de Riscal (100% Verdejo), a 2013 Verdejo by Emina (100% Verdejo) and last but not least the 2013 Badajo Rueda Verdejo by Gotica. I loved the label from the Badajo as it reminded me a of the wallpaper I used on one of the walls from my still to be born daughter 🙂 🙂 (JUST FYI). Although all 3 wines are 100% of Verdejo grapes you could taste a small difference, the Marques de Riscal fruitier, whereas the Emina was more silt/salty like. FYI all the wines I’m mentioning are available in Belgium.
What I did enjoy was that for the remaining wines Andy and Nico (chef from Les Eleveurs) created and found some great matching dishes tapa style to go with the wines :-). The first matching dish they had to find was to fit with the 2013 Analivia Verdejo by Pagos del Rey. Although it won’t come as a surprise that most dishes included fish as although with can also match some meats the best pairing is still with fish… So for the first dish they went for a puffed codfish skin with hand peeled grey shrimps and avocado. The freshness of the dish went perfectly with the fruitiness and freshness of the wine. I do love my grey shrimps from the North-sea!!
Followed by crayfish with a risotto ‘croquette’ to match the Verdejo de Alberto still in the wine types of before nothing extravagant yet, just lovely and easy to drink.
The wines that were about to follow were slightly more ‘complex’ wines in comparison with the previous ones as some of them did get a little wooden barrel time (not too much though). The Verdejo from Traslagares is a good example.Well balanced acidity with a touch of bitterness and the taste for 2nd glass and one the favorites of the evening 🙂 Perfect for the hand-caught bass with eggplant caviar and a black olive crumble.
As first non fish dish we received a on low heat roasted chicken leg Moroccan style paired for the Rueda Verdejo wine by Reina de Castilla probably the most complex wine together with the last wine of the night.
The frosting on the cake is always the dessert, isn’t it? Normally they had forseen cheeses, but as I’m not really a cheesy guy (in every sense of the word) they gave me a caramel/pear/ice/chocolat dessert which also match perfect with I think favorite wine of the evening the PR3 Barricas Verdejo by Prado Rey that has been on wood for 9 months… which is a long time for this type of wine and results in a stronger wine, but still not too complex, I’d rather call it tropical with a light wood sense in between .
I can’t wait for it to be summer, but I’m sure glass of Rueda wine will help me to keep patient as it truly is summer in a glass!
Hope to visit this region some day!
Thanks to Rueda Wines and Andy De Brouwer for learning me more about wines…