Verdejo is a variety of wine grape that has long been grown in the Rueda region of Spain. The grape originated in North Africa, and was spread to Rueda in about the 11th Century, possibly by Mozarabs. Verdejo was generally used to make a strongly oxidized, Sherry-like wine. In the 1970s the winemaking company Marqués de Riscal began to develop a fresher style of white wine based on Verdejo with the help of French oenologist Émile Peynaud. In 1980 white wines from the Rueda region were recognized by a Denominación de Origen (DO). Wines labeled Rueda must contain 50% Verdejo; the remainder is typically Sauvignon blanc or Macabeo. Wines designated “Rueda Verdejo” must contain 85% Verdejo, and are often 100% Verdejo.
The Verdejo grapes are generally harvested at night. This means that the grapes enter the cellar at the lower night-time temperature of between 10-15 C instead of the daytime temperature which in September can reach as high as 28 or 30 C. Lower temperatures means less oxidation, or browning of the juice. Verdejo wines are aromatic, often soft, and full-bodied.