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Wine A to Z: Verdelho and Verdejo

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There are two white wine grapes indigenous to Portugal and Spain with similar flavor profiles, but they should not be mistaken for each other or used interchangeably. They are Verdelho, from Portugal, and Verdejo, from Spain. Though the spellings are similar, and they seem to have a commonality in their "greenness" (verde being rooted in Latin, meaning green), and they are both, indeed, green grapes, the similarities end there.

Portugal, nestled into the western side of Spain, is perhaps best known for it's eponymous Port wines. It's true that most of the grapes grown in Portugal are red. But to make their Madeira wine, a fortified white wine, Verdelho, along with three other white wine grapes, is called upon. It is thought to have arrived in Portugal in the 1400's, and has since been gaining a foothold in Australia, where it is finding some success as a dry white wine.

The grape clusters of Verdelho are comprised of small yellow-gold berries with a thick skin. They ripen early and grow ell in a warmer climate. As a wine, Verdelho is typically a medium dry style, with fair acidity and flavors of honeysuckle, and lime.

Spain, also known for it's reds (most specifically, Tempranillo) and it's Sherries, is the originating point for a white wine grape called Verdejo. It is found mainly in the Rueda region of Spain's Duero Valley, where until 2008, it was the primary white wine grape. It's history can be traced back to the Moors in the 12 Century, although it was devastated by phylloxera, and resurrected in the 1970's.

Verdejo is grown at high altitudes in well-drained soils, and as a wine, exhibits light, bright grapey flavors and fresh acidity, similar to a classic sauvignon blanc. While it has not ventured far out of Spain as a wine grape, there is some growing in Lodi, California, and surrounding areas. Rick Taylor of Riaza Wines (www.riazawines.com) has created and bottled a Verdejo from Clarksburg, which you can buy in their downtown Lodi tasting room or online.

While both of these qualify for the previous Wine A to Z: Unusual but not Unheard of article, it seemed as though they needed their own spotlight. Just for fun, go forth and seek out a bottle of each and do some comparison tasting on your own. Happy sipping!

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