Year after year, in spite of the vagaries of each vintage, Angel Rodriquez coaxes the best out of his beloved organically farmed Verdejo to fashion quintessential Rueda Verdejo, which by all accounts continues to reign as one of Spain’s most compelling white wines. Nevertheless, after an ideal growing season, Rodriguez’s 2016 Martinsancho Rueda Verdejo appears to have reached even greater heights, as the 2016 Martinsancho struck us as the finest Martinsancho we have tasted in the two decades we have known of this wine. The 2016 Martinsancho sports its usual sun-splashed robe, but this wine’s supreme purity, pinpoint precision, and vibrancy set it a notch above. Pungent aromas redolent of lemon zest, spring flowers, and liquid stones seduce the nose and prepare the palate for the beautiful fruit and floral tones that first grace the mouth. Upon embarking upon the palate, the 2016 Martinsancho first displays its sensual side, which is underpinned by a crisp, racy, herb-tinged minerality that adds complexity and leads to a long, vibrant finish. Nothing detracts from the purity and freshness of this wine, which no doubt is one of the reasons that noted wine critic Robert Parker Jr. once made this comment about Martinsancho: “This is the best dry white table wine I have tasted from Spain” …and we are pleased to add that Angel Rodriguez and the 2016 Martinsancho continue to deliver the best that Rueda has to offer. Enjoy the outstanding 2016 Martinsancho moderately chilled (40º-45º F).
The 2016 Martinsancho Verdejo, like its predecessors, needs no accompaniment to shine; its purity and individuality speak volumes on their own. Nonetheless, great food enhances great wine and vice versa, so we suggest doubling the pleasure of your visit with the 2016 Martinsancho Verdejo with some well chosen dishes. Some of our favorite accompaniments to serve with Martinsancho include tapas, hors d’oeuvres, smoked salmon with capers, baked or grilled white fish, shellfish, poultry, and paella, providing the paella is not too highly charged. In addition, we highly recommend pairing grilled octopus with avocado aioli and watercress, as well as grilled red snapper, rock fish, sea bass, and halibut with Martinsancho. Jamon Iberico and ripe honeydew melon wrapped with prosciutto make good companions, too. Better still, why not have a party, invite some new acquaintances, and serve the 2016 Martinsancho as your opening act? We can almost guarantee that after the first bottle of Angel Rodriquez’s seductive Martinsancho Verdejo you will have made several new friends, but you had better have a second bottle on hand. No wonder our tasting panels have dubbed Martinsancho “the no headache wine”…providing of course you don’t overindulge. Enjoy!
One of the great highlights of any trip to Spain is sharing a glass of wine and a meal with the now legendary Angel Rodriguez, Spain’s iconic octogenarian winemaker and guardian of Rueda’s Verdejo grape. To spend time with the extraordinary Angel Rodriguez and his beloved Martinsancho vineyard is to share in history. Our first visit to Angel Rodriguez was a quest, the fulfillment of a promise, and a pilgrimage of sorts. We had heard of this courageous man and the story behind Martinsancho, and I’m happy to report that we all left Angel Rodriquez’s company in complete awe. A more gracious, humble, or hardworking gentleman would be hard to find. Moreover, his lifetime commitment to Verdejo and his native Rueda continue in earnest. We eagerly await our next visit.
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 one of only a handful of truly noble Spanish white grape varietals, Verdejo was in serious danger of extinction by the early 1970s 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 called Martinsancho, Angel Rodriguez saved the shy-bearing, thick-skinned Verdejo from extinction.
The original majuelo or 17th century vineyard of Martinsancho is less than two acres 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 and its beloved Verdejo for the vine cuttings it provides and the legacy it has preserved. Yet, forty-five 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 and what many have called sheer lunacy: he re-grafted a vineyard by hand onto 25 acres of premier land, using Verdejo cuttings from the Martinsancho vineyard.
Subsequently, other Rueda growers have planted Verdejo with the help of Angel Rodriguez, to the point that today this shy-bearing vine is once again the leading white grape varietal in Rueda and one of Spain’s most important grape varieties.
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