The emergence of Rueda as a prestigious white wine region is the story of a unique grape called Verdejo. Although among only a small handful of truly noble Spanish white varieties, it was in danger of extinction by the early 1970s due to pervasive planting of more prolific producers such as Viura and Palomino. Angel Rodríguez saved the shy-bearing, thick-skinned Verdejo through loving refusal to uproot his 17th-century vineyard, Martínsancho. For his untiring efforts in favor of reestablishing Verdejo’s prominence in its region of origin, he was officially honored by King Juan Carlos.
The majuelo (plot) of Martínsancho is less than an acre of gnarled vines, preserved in isolation as a museum of prephylloxera viticulture and as a continuing source of undisputed varietal authenticity, treasured by nurseries throughout Europe. In 1976, Angel regrafted 25 acres of his best vineyard, using Martínsancho cuttings. The alluvial soil is pure gravel to a depth of over 30 feet. The harsh continental climate and extreme altitude of Old Castile, together with the soil’s austere in-hospitality to all types of insects and bacteria, allow for the practice of completely organic viticulture.
A traditional subterranean bodega is still in full use, replete with 5,000- liter oak bocoyes in continuous use for centuries. For Martínsancho, two glass tanks of 20,000 liters are used for fermentation of the unpressed Verdejo juice, with wine subsequently transferred underground for clarification and rounding the cooperage.
Prodution of Martínsancho is under 4,000 cases, its informing character obtained both from the Medieval vines and the 25-acre parcel. Harvest is carefully timed and rapidly completed, for consistent maturity and health in even the most difficult years. Archetypal of authentic Verdejo is Martínsancho’s refined, creamy bouquet with a surprisingly long and complex finish.