Time is ripe for verdejo

The crisp Spanish white wine pairs well with summer meals

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Verdejo just may be the Cinderella grape of the wine world. Long made into a sherrylike wine, verdejo got a new lease on life beginning in the 1970s when Spanish winemakers in the Rueda region began making fresh, lively white wines out of it.

Today, verdejo (vehr-DAY-yoh) is one of those crisp whites we all crave, not only in summer but year-round, for its body and rich flavor.

Verdejo is the indigenous white grape variety in Rueda, a region in northwestern Spain along the Duero River. The region's official wine Web site, Denominacion de Origen Rueda (dorueda.com/en),traces the grape's presence in Rueda back to the 11th century and, before that, to North Africa.

Like its Spanish sisters, albarino from the Rias Baixas region and macabeo (known as viura in the Rioja region), verdejo makes a terrific food wine. Its citrusy notes and aroma — very similar to sauvignon blanc — play particularly well with the composed salads and simple grilled foods of summer.

wdaley@tribune.com

A refreshing four verdejos to try

Verdejo is as easy on the wallet as it is on the tongue. As with so many wines from Spain, one can expect high levels of quality at relatively low prices. Consider these four 2009 verdejos: all quite good, refreshing and aromatic.

2009 Palacio de Bornos: This lemon-yellow wine has a lemony nose touched with honey and white flowers. The flavor evokes green apple, black pepper and mineral flavors. A slight toastiness gives the wine a light, creamy quality. Serve with Thai green curry, paella, salade nicoise. $10

2009 Protos: The aroma is fragrant, tart, lemony, green apples. Look for a distinct mineral quality on the tongue ("rocks," one taster wrote) with a pleasant lemon-lime underlay. Serve with grilled shrimp, fried haddock, fried chicken. $14

2009 Emina: Lemony nose with a whiff of white flowers. The wine is refreshing, with notes of green apples, cantaloupe and black pepper. Serve with Waldorf salad, barbecued chicken, deviled ham salad. $13

2009 Cuatro Rayas: This wine has sharp, chalky nose. The flavors are restrained: white pear, green apple, black pepper, a spritz of lime. There's a nice touch of creaminess, too. Serve with sashimi, garlic-baked chicken, tuna or chicken salad. $14

Wine ratings: Excellent; Very good; Good; Fair; None: Poor

You want that wine. But your store or area distributor may not carry it. What to do? Ask your wine retailer for a wine similar in flavor, style and price. Remember, too, prices vary.

What foods go with verdejo?

Best choices:

Pasta, especially with pesto

Salad

Shellfish

Vegetables, especially roasted

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