Scan the rows of wine on the shelf of your local wine shop, and there’s one bottle of Rueda that’s bound to catch your eye should it be in stock. Perhaps it’s the iridescent shimmer of the foiled label. Or maybe it’s the intrigue of the design — a deer poised on profile in a tangled, silver forest. Or maybe it’s the simple, bold name and typeface: Shaya.
Yes, there’s something about that bottle that draws people into Shaya — but it’s the bold, crisp Rueda wine inside the bottle that keeps wine drinkers coming back. After all, as many “critter-label” wines have found out, a good frame can’t save a bad painting, so it’s ultimately all about the juice in the bottle.
The idea for Shaya started with one basic premise: Work with authentic Verdejo grapes to make an authentic Rueda wine.
A part of the larger Gil family estates, the Shaya brand sits among good vino company, including Spanish wines from D.O. Almansa in the east and D.O. Jumilla in the south. But for Miguel Gil (member of the Gil family and manager of the Shaya bodegas), launching the company’s first D.O. Rueda vintage in 2008 “was the culmination of a dream come true.”
The idea for Shaya started with one basic premise: Work with authentic Verdejo grapes to make an authentic Rueda wine. Nestled on a parcel of land near Segovia, Miguel and his team started their bodega in the heart of Rueda, and focused their efforts on cultivating only the best pre-phylloxera vines. The only thing they didn’t have was a name.
And then, a deer trotted by.
According to Miguel, “the name Shaya comes from the name given to a deer saved at a wildlife rescue center in the area. We liked the name very much, and it also matched our idea of recovering the authentic Verdejo we wanted for our project.”
Bodegas y Viñedos Shaya
With an unwavering focus on protecting the integrity of the wine, Miguel sought out a great winemaker with a proven ability to make great whites — and he found one who just so happens to be from Australia.
Just as the wildlife center saw something worth saving in that striking deer, Miguel and his team felt the need to give more life to Verdejo, treating the prized grape of the region with respect and dedication. But just because the team set out to honor a piece of pre-phylloxera Spain’s past, that doesn’t mean they weren’t willing to also think globally. With an unwavering focus on protecting the integrity of the wine, Miguel sought out a great winemaker with a proven ability to make great whites — and he found one who just so happens to be from … wait for it … Australia.
Enter Belinda Thompson, Shaya’s head winemaker.
“Belinda has perspective without prejudices on the unique variety of Verdejo,” Miguel tells us. “She is able to get to its true potential, based on its peculiarities and eliminating practices that do not respect it. This enhances the result to an authentic wine making that accounts for the terroir and variety in all its personality.”
With a head winemaker and a mission in mind, the team then started setting goals and milestones — including mocking up the design of their eye-catching Shaya bottles. “The current label we have has gone through three different variants,” Miguel explains. “The idea was to convey complexity and freshness at the same time, to all consumers who did not know us or who still do not know us. For them to feel attracted to the label on the shelves, and that in turn reflects that this is a different quality white wine.”
And that brings us to the present, and to the wine itself. What exactly goes into every bottle of Shaya come harvest time?
“A vintage day at Shaya is the ultimate expression of the passion and skill of our people,” Miguel says. “They give the best of themselves, no time for rest, and must use all five senses 100% all the time to not neglect any details. But at the end of the day it is worth it.”
During every annual harvest, Shaya differentiates itself by “respecting the authentic qualities of Verdejo without using yeast to mask its true aromatic and taste profiles. That is intended to show the full extent of the characteristics of this variety.”
As for the rest of the year, Miguel explains that off-season is when the team takes time to learn, improve their practices, and enjoy their wine: each glass the result of the passion and affection that they gave during the harvest.
Cheers to that.
Pair Shaya with seafood or poultry; drink it for a nightcap or a day-starting brunch — the delicate acidity and crisp taste makes it friendly with just about everything and everyone at the table. And you can’t deny it looks pretty, too.