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Q&A: Elena M Oyagüe, Cuatro Rayas

Published:  25 November, 2020

Winemaker Elena M Oyagüe of Cuatro Rayas explains what makes Rueda Verdejo unique, including the region’s very special old vines, and how on the food-pairing front the wines’ flexibility is akin to the little black dress and fashion

What is your philosophy as a winemaker?

Discretion. The main character of our wine is the Verdejo from Rueda, and for the Cuatro Rayas brand, it’s the flagship that represents the dream come true of more than 300 winegrowers whose lives revolve around this varietal. The job of a winemaker must respect tradition with an innovative perspective. The role we play in the big family we belong to in the co-operative, whether in the field or the winery, must seek to maintain the wine heritage of our grandparents while being adventurous enough to break any dogma. This allows you to get wines that leave no one indifferent, neither the experts of the wine world, nor the ones that enjoy them for the first time.

What makes Rueda Verdejo unique?

A Rueda Verdejo makes you want more. You can notice its personality in the glass thanks to its volume and on the palate due to its characteristic bitter-ish touch; it provides an original hint, with great fruity expression. These wines are very harmonious and their after taste invites you to continue tasting them.

How important is the DO name Rueda Verdejo in protecting this identity?

In Spain, for several years Rueda and Verdejo have been used interchangeably. But when other regions promoted Verdejo winemaking, the enthusiasts of this white wine in our country realised that they weren’t the same thing. The Verdejo varietal has existed for over 10 centuries in the landscapes that now constitute the DO Rueda. Rueda Verdejo is synonymous with a unique spirit, determined by its aroma and flavour, with low bush aromas, fruity hints and wonderful acidity.

What is your approach to winemaking to bring out the best of grape and region?

The wines from Bodega Cuatro Rayas are influenced by the wide variety of vineyards – around 2,500ha – located in more than 30 villages. Twenty per cent of the oldest vineyards in DO Rueda belong to Cuatro Rayas. The approach we take is based on different Verdejo winemaking depending on the age of the vineyard and the type of harvest: night mechanical harvest for the youngest, or in crates; selection table and small press for the grapes from the older vineyards. Then, the winemaking process continues with fermentation in barrels, concrete, or stainless-steel vats; or the ageing on its fine lees for more or less time, depending on the Verdejo characteristics we want to enhance.

Specifically, why is a green and socially sustainable approach important?

In Bodega Cuatro Rayas we are aware of the importance of being responsible for our environment, therefore we take special care with the impact we have in the social and natural environment where we carry out our business activities. With our Green & Social label, we affirm the co-operative’s commitment to respect for the environment and the people who live in it: financial transparency and ethical management; social involvement, quality, innovation and security for our members; ecological management of the crops; vegan winemaking or reduction of the carbon footprint caused by our logistic operations. We are also working to minimise our impact on the natural environment with measures such as the reduction of the glass weight in our bottles, the usage of recycled materials in our packaging, the usage of closures made with 100% recycled materials from natural origin or the development of capsules without plastics and with water-based inks.

Tell us more about Cuatro Rayas Viñedos Centenarios?

It is one of the greatest gems of DO Rueda. Made from a limited selection of grapes coming from 80- to 100-year-old vineyards. We carry out a unique winemaking process to boost the longevity of the Verdejo varietal, seeking a balanced and mouth-filling palate with a significant minerality. The free-run must we obtain from the Inertis pneumatic pressing – inertisation using nitrogen at all times – is macerated for three days over its burbs (deposits) to enhance the organoleptic properties of old-vine grapes. With indigenous yeasts, the result of two types of the winemaking process, a part is fermented in 500-litre French oak barrels and the rest is done in a stainless-steel vat. After the fermentation, we blend everything to carry out five-month ageing on its lees.