Rueda is experiencing an identity crisis. At home in Spain, and abroad it has earned a reputation for cheap, crisp […]Keep Reading
Rueda is experiencing an identity crisis. At home in Spain, and abroad it has earned a reputation for cheap, crisp and somewhat neutral white wine – the Marlborough SB of the Iberian peninsula. This reality has resulted in industrial farming practices, frightfully high yields, and the removal of old bush vine Verdejo in favor of Sauvignon Blanc planted so it can be harvested by machine. There is precious little risk taking or innovation as the appellation seems intent on driving prices down along with its reputation.
The cliché that states that it is always darkest before the dawn may be an overstatement in regards to Rueda but there are some glimmers of hope as a younger generation begins the hard word of restoring the reputation of Rueda. One such project is Menade.
Three Sanz siblings are behind Menade: Marco, the viticulturalist, Richard, the winemarker and Alejandra, who manages sales and communications. If the Sanz name sounds familiar it is because one cannot throw a bunch of grapes in Rueda without hitting a winemaker named, or related to this large, extended family. Marco, Richard and Alejandra are not content to rest on anyone’s laurels however, nor are the interested in what Rueda has become, rather they are driven by what it is capable of becoming. To this end, Marco has converted the property to organic farming, and Richard has traveled all around the world learning his trade – an experience which has taught him that the future of Rueda lies in championing the indigenous Verdejo grape, the necessity of old vines and the importance of natural yeast fermentations to create complex and satisfying wines.
The decision to convert to organic farming at Menade was made with the understanding that it resulted in better wines by reducing yields. With greater competition for resources (primarily water and nitrogen) the vines responded by setting smaller clusters with smaller berries – high in natural anti-oxidants and native yeasts. The quality of the fruit at Menade has allowed Richard to dispense with SO2 during fermentation allowing the indigenous yeasts to do their thing with the wine being protected from oxidation by a layer of natural and recycled CO2.
Menade farms 160 hectares of vines in Rueda located mainly in the northern part of the DO near the Duero river. Of this, 120 are planted with Verdejo including an ancient, ungrafted, 30 hectare parcel of bush vines. The soils are sandy clay, with a high chalk content, and topped with gravel. Their newer plantations of Verdejo are between 20–30 years old and were selected for their clonal diversity and ability to adapt to organic farming.
In addition to their green-label Verdejo, made with a blend of young and old vine fruit, Menade also is experimenting with making and bottling wine entirely without added SO2, called Nosso (no sulfur.) The obsession with native yeasts and fermentation has also carried over to brewing with a Pale Ale called La Burra – as crisp, complex and refreshing as their wines.Close