A Spanish White Wine from Old Vines

Bodegas Naia
Naia Verdejo, 2015
13.5 percent alcohol content
La Seca, Rueda region, Spain, $14.99

Started in 2002, Bodegas Naia had a straightforward purpose: making high quality white wines using grapes from old, indigenous Verdejo vines. The experiment worked. The winery has succeeded in making some of the best Verdejo in the world, and its affordable Naia is no exception.

The fresh, well-structured Naia, a 100 percent Verdejo wine, enhanced its reputation by winning a silver medal for the 2015 vintage at the prestigious Mundus Vini, a worldwide competition held each year in the small German town of Neustadt. The contest was judged by a panel of 160 experts from 36 countries. The wine also has received ratings of 90 points out of 100 or higher from Wine Spectator and other wine magazines.

Naia is an excellent, straw-yellow-colored wine with flavors and aromas of peaches and apricots. It’s a bargain at its full price, but I frequently find it on sale for a couple of dollars less. Naia goes well with fish and seafood or just to sip on its own any time of year. I drank it with a rich chicken, chickpea and artichoke soup, and it complemented the dish beautifully.

Although the grapes to make Naia come from vines between 35 and 45 years old, some of the vines in the vineyard are at least 130 years old. Grapes from the older vines go into making the winery’s top-rated wine, Naiades.

From its inception, Bodegas Naia has eschewed the current trend of blending Verdejo or using more modern clones of the vines as some other Rueda region winemakers are doing, the company’s website says.

The winery has committed to using grapes from clones of the original, indigenous vines that were some of the first grown in the Rueda region, which is located on the Duero River around 90 miles northwest of the Spanish capital, Madrid. White wines from the region are required to be at least 50 percent Verdejo, often blended with Macabeo, one of the three grapes that go into the making of Cava, the Spanish sparkling wine. Sauvignon Blanc also is commonly blended with Verdejo in Rueda.

“Within the many clones that exist, we have chosen to use one that is original, with which the first wines of the area were made. It is an autochthonous (indigenous) clone that allows us to extract the classic aromas and that marks an important difference with respect to those (clones) that have appeared in the last decades in the Denomination (Rueda),” the winery’s enologist Cristina Bosch said in a 2015 interview published by the Spanish online magazine ED Economia Digital.

The Bodegas Naia vineyards are high and dry, about 2,600 feet above sea level with an average annual rainfall of around 15 inches. The soils consist of clay covered with sand and pebbles. The climate is hot and dry in the summer and cold and raw in the winter, varying as much as 50 degrees between seasons.

Bodegas Naia produces about 840,000 bottles of wine a year, of which 180,000 are Naia, and is the largest of the nine wineries owned by Avanteselecta, a wine group that holds small, quality wineries in key areas of Spain. Bodegas Naia produces far less wine than other wineries in Rueda, the company’s website says.

Like Bodegas Naia, Avanteselecta is dedicated to making wines with grapes that are indigenous to the distinct regions where they were originally grown.

For the 2015 Naia, 85 percent was fermented in stainless steel tanks with the remainder in French oak casks. One of the things that makes Naia distinctive is the aging of the wine for four months on its lees (dead yeast), which gives the wine structure and density, improving it on the palate, winemaker Laura Sanz says on the website.

The result is a “complex wine that enhances in the glass by releasing nuanced aromas and flavors. It is balanced, dense and unctuous on the palate,” Sanz says in the tasting notes.

Naia is widely available on the New England market. If you don’t see it on the shelf, ask your wine-seller to find it for you. If you want an easy-drinking white wine that’s different from the standard varietals, you should check out Naia.

Suggestions of wines in the $10 range are always appreciated. Warren Johnston can be reached at raiseyourglassofwine@gmail.com.

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