Rueda is a small winemaking region within Spain, northwest of Madrid, still developing its younger wines and thirty years ago, granted D.O. (denomination of origin) status in 1980; winemakers there are on a mission to develop and introduce their own brand of white varietals to America and the world, feeding off of centuries of sherry-making experience. On Sunday afternoon I attended a Learn About Wine tasting event held at Josie Restaurant in Santa Monica, to imbibe these white wines.

Spain is already an enormous producer (third largest in the world)—red varietals and Sherry’s tend to dominate the landscape yet white varietals like Verdejo, Palomino and Albriño are also widely available.

However, whites have been on the decline—a stat thrown out by professional sommelier and instructor Ian Blackburn said that we are approaching a 4:1 ratio in favor of red wine to white wine bottles being drunk. I personally am guilty of facilitating the stat but do not shun any particular wine by color.

This class/tasting event showcased Rueda’s white wine characteristics—strong acid and bright mineral flavors, by pairing them with a wide range of fare. We began conventionally with cheeses moving to seafood (Baby Octopus a la Plancha), then escalated to Slow-Roasted Pork Belly ‘Porchetta’ and finished the pairings with Moroccan-Style Beef Short Ribs.

The head chef of Josie Restaurant, Josie Le Balch was on hand to prepare the meals and tell us about a lot of the dishes. That made the class much more special to have the chef walk you through her philosophy behind the plates and highlighting certain aspects that might have been overlooked while dining.

The glasses were laid out before us, two glasses to a course. All glasses contained a 2009-harvested Verdejo varietal (not always 100% Verdejo; sometimes a “kiss” of Sauvignon Blanc) from various producers. The flavor profiles were dynamic; some were grassy and herbaceous while others had strong citrus components like grapefruit rind on the nose with a little pear or apple. More surprising than the broad spectrum of flavors and aromatics between producers from the petite wine region was the ability to hold up to meat. The acid was equal to the task of the fatty ‘Porchetta’ and it also intensified the spices in the Moroccan-Style Beef Short Ribs.

For a wine with this kind of diversity it also has a great price point, between thirteen to eighteen dollars, more than enough to try the best of Rueda.

Sunday proved to be a first in many ways, like eating octopus, eating at Josie Restaurant and trying white wines from Rueda; I did not expect a lot other than exposure and instead was made a believer in white wines ability to pair well with bold flavors and definitely a fan of Josie Restaurant. With summer heat fast upon us, it will be nice to have some depth in the cellar with Rueda’s white wines.