Untapping the real complexity of Rueda’s iconic grape
Dismissed by many as an unexciting Sauvignon Blanc doppelganger, Verdejo is capable of producing wines of great character and complexity if handled correctly. Bodegas Pandora do exactly that, bringing out the best from Rueda’s iconic grape. The viticultural and winemaking skills of Pandora’s team result in wines that will forever change your idea of what to expect from this variety and region.
Location: Rueda, Spain
Working with us since: 2021
Interesting fact: Bodegas Pandora have a small one-hectare ampelographic garden, next to the winery, with over 20 varieties from all over the world. This serves both as a testbed and educational tool, allowing professionals and visitors to get acquainted with the different grapes and understand how well they could perform in the Rueda terroir. Among the varieties plated in the garden are Malbec, Sangiovese, Chenin, Garnacha Blanca, Albariño, Traminer, Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Garnacha, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Tempranillo, Nebriolo, Moscatel Grano Menudo, Viogner and, of course, Verdejo.
It’s easy to dismiss Verdejo as an unexciting grape variety and Rueda as a DO mostly delivering cheap-n-cheerful fare. Your expectations might change – like ours did – after you’ve tasted the wines from Bodegas Pandora. Both their entry ‘Ariabal’ and flagship ‘Pandra’ show how Rueda’s indigenous variety can produce wines of textural and aromatic complexity if handled correctly. Still great value but much more than simply cheerful.
A number of factors differentiate Pandora’s approach, both in the vineyard and in the cellar, from that of most Rueda producers. Their vines, the oldest of which were planted in 1980, have a respectable average age of 25 years. High density plantings and careful canopy management keep yields in check, in order to obtain only the best fruit, perfectly ripe and with optimal phenolic development. Such potential for complexity is brought to life in the cellar, where the juice undergoes a short maceration before fermentation and all wines are aged on the lees before bottling. The result are wines with surprising flavour concentration, incredible structure, distinct texture and amazing balance of acidity and alcohol.
The wines are careful blends of different parcels, each imparting specific characteristics to the final cuvée: aromatic intensity from fruit grown on gravelly soils; minerality from pebble-rich plots; roundness and structure from the parcels with higher clay content. The vineyards stretch across different municipalities at the heart of the Rueda DO. While planted almost entirely with Verdejo, Bodegas Pandora also grow some Sauvignon Blanc, allowing them to benchmark their wines against the international variety Verdejo is often compared with.