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Considering the quality quotient under which Angel Rodriguez has always operated and the consistency he has displayed in varying vintages, it is indeed hard to believe that each successive vintage of his beloved Martinsancho has been an improvement over the one that preceded it. The 2004 Martinsancho, the most recent release from Angel Rodriguez, is a clear knockout and a tour de force in white winemaking. It is also totally organic. This latest release eclipses even the exceptional 2001and 2003 renditions of Martinsancho in both structure and sheer pleasure. In short, the 2004 Martinsancho raises the quality bar on Verdejo in general. The 2004 Martinsancho displays an amplifying aroma of fresh citrus, spring flowers, minerals, and liquid stones– all of which signal a purity rarely seen in other white wines. The savor and gustatory pleasure that emanate from the wine are equally outstanding. From its brilliant golden, green-tinged robe to its long natural tasting finish, the brilliant 2004 Martinsancho Verdejo remains truly unique and nothing short of remarkable. Additional accolades and adjectives aside, the following comment by wine critic Robert Parker Jr. about an earlier vintage of Martinsancho sums up our experience with the 2004 Martinsancho: "This is the best dry white table wine I have tasted from Spain". . . and we would add that the best has just gotten even better. Enjoy this one of kind gem cool, moderately chilled, or frosty. As for us, we love it any way we can get it.
Food enhances wine and vice versa, and the 2004 Martinsancho Verdejo is no exception to our mantra. However, the 2004 Martinsancho Verdejo, like its predecessors, needs no accompaniment to shine; its purity and individuality speak volumes on their own. Nonetheless, the panel shares some tried and true favorite accompaniments to Martinsancho. Some of our favorite pairings with the 2004 Martinsancho include tapas, hors d'oeuvres, smoked salmon with capers, fish, shellfish, poultry, and paella, providing the paella is not too highly charged. In addition, we highly recommend the 2004 Martinsancho with the finest sushi and sashimi. Martinsancho is especially tasty with grilled red snapper and salmon, too. Better still, why not have a party, invite some new acquaintances, and serve the Martinsancho as your opening act? By the end of the evening, you will have a room full of new friends. Enjoy!
We have always thought the man and the story behind this incredible little bodega are nearly as intriguing as the property's wonderful wine. Indeed, Angel Rodriguez and the emergence of Rueda as the most prestigious still white wine-producing region of Spain are synonymous. Angel's story is the story of a unique grape called Verdejo. Although Verdejo is among only a handful of truly noble Spanish white varietals, Verdejo was in serious danger of extinction by the early 1970's due to the pervasive planting of more prolific native varietals such as Viura and Palomino and the introduction of international favorites such as Chardonnay. Through his loving refusal to uproot his ancient 17th century vineyard calledMartinsancho, Angel Rodriguez saved the shy bearing, thick-skinned Verdejo from extinction
The original majuelo or 17th century vineyard of Martinsancho is less than one acre of gnarled, ungrafted vines, preserved in isolation as a museum of pre-phylloxera viticulture and a continuing source of undisputed varietal authenticity. Once considered an anachronism and an economic liability, nurseries throughout Europe now treasure the Martinsancho vineyard for the vine cuttings it provides and the legacy it has preserved. Yet, thirty years ago no one seemed to care about this old vineyard with extremely low yielding vines; in fact, few had even heard of Martinsancho's existence. Besides, Verdejo was not deemed profitable enough then by most experts to preserve, let alone grow, despite the vine's noble pedigree and the undisputed quality of the wine it produced. Yet, in spite of the prevailing pressure and "expert advice" to uproot the old vineyard, Angel Rodriguez preserved it, and then undertook the near impossible or what many have called sheer lunacy: he re-grafted a vineyard by hand onto 25 acres of premier land, using Martinsancho cuttings.
In 1974 Angel Rodriguez planted the noble, nearly extinct Rueda Verdejo into his very best vineyard: thereby, assuring the continuation of the Martinsancho vineyard as well as the venerable production of Verdejo. In this special 25 acre vineyard, the alluvial soil is nearly all gravel to a depth of over thirty feet. Moreover, the harsh continental climate and the extreme altitude of Old Castile, together with the vineyard soil's austere inhospitality to all types of insects and bacteria, allow for the practice of completely organic viticulture – a rarity, especially for white wine.
With the help of Angel Rodriguez, other Rueda growers have planted Verdejo, to the point that today this shy bearing vine is once again the leading white varietal in Rueda. For his great sacrifice and untiring efforts in favor of re-establishing Verdejo's prominence in its region of origin, Angel Rodriguez has been officially honored by King Juan Carlos of Spain.
In spite of his great accomplishment and the recognition he well deserves, Angel Rodriquez remains a humble man who believes in tradition. He steadfastly maintains a very low-tech approach to the natural production of his wine. Angel still uses the centuries old, subterranean family bodega, replete with ancient 5,000 liter oak barrels for aging. The only quasi-modern pieces of equipment are two 20,00 liter glass tanks, which are used for the fermentation of the unpressed Martinsancho Verdejo, but subsequently even the Martinsancho is transferred underground for clarification and aging in ancient casks.
Production of the great Martinsancho remains quite small, under 2000 cases, but this wine's refined tactile quality and great depth of flavor reveal the indomitable spirit of a great winemaker and the preservation of a legacy. Enjoy!
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