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The Spanish Cahteâu of the Twenty-First Century



With ribbons of brightly colored titanium that appear to shimmer and wave in the sky, the stunning City of Wine of Marqués de Riscal, designed by architect Frank O. Gehry, makes a fitting crown for the Rioja region’s landmark wine producer. Search beneath the soaring structures and modern winery of Marqués de Riscal, however, and you find the City of Wine is perched upon stone cellars that date back over a century. Much like the Rioja wines of Marqués de Riscal, the City of Wine is an enthusiastic expression, founded on rich traditions.

The cellar of the Marqués de Riscal winery, affectionately referred to as the cathedral, will inspire
reverence in any true wine lover. Even the greatest châteaus of France can’t claim to house so
complete a collection of their own wines, a living testimony to perseverance and consistency. “We
have our first bottled wine in the cellar from the vintage of 1862, and every vintage since. This is
a place of sanctity, a sacred place,” says Alejandro Aznar, chairman of Vinos de los Herederos del
Marqués de Riscal.

While the thousands of dusty bottles are easily admired as rare antiquities, a closer look reveals their
true beauty, without even pulling the cork, for these vintages chronicle a long history of innovation.
Starting in 1858, the Hurtado de Amézaga family emerged from among the rural winemakers of
Rioja to create the first winery for crafting and aging red wines in the techniques of Bordeaux. By
1862 they were the first to commercially bottle their wines under the name Rioja, long before Rioja
became an official Spanish wine region. In 1895, the wines of Riscal were the first non-French wines to receive the Diplôme de Honneur at the Exhibition in Bordeaux, an achievement that adorns the labels of the Reserva and Gran Reserva wines even today.

Other exciting firsts are within living memory for many of today’s wine lovers. Barón de Chirel, combining Tempranillo with international red grapes, made its first appearance in 1986, ushering in a new era of modern
Rioja wines showing structure and power. Finca Torrea, an innovative interpretation of Tempranillo and Graciano, debuted in 2009. And, just a few years ago, Marqués de Riscal purchased the D.O. Marqués de Arienzo
winery in Rioja, adding a crianza wine to the portfolio for the first time, while also increasing their vineyard sources. “With this acquisition, we brought our land holdings to over 1,200 acres of Rioja Alavesa, the finest region of Rioja and the only one acceptable to Riscal. In addition, we constructed a new winery specifically for the production of our most superior wines,” says Aznar.

In some instances, the pioneering spirit of Marqués de Riscal is uncontained even by Rioja itself. “We were not happy with the white wines in Rioja, so we searched the whole of Spain and in 1972 opened a winery in Rueda, dedicated to making lively white wines from the traditional Verdejo grape as well as Sauvignon Blanc,” says Aznar. With each new vintage, and new wine added to the Riscal cellar, history records another footnote that maintains Riscal at the forefront of Spanish winemaking.


The gold wire netting that encases each bottle of the Marqués de Riscal Reserva and Gran Reserva wines makes them quickly identifiable in the cellars, and on store shelves. But these ornate packages represent more than mere decoration. The wire net was originally put in place to thwart crooks, who might dare to put inferior wine into a Riscal bottle to capitalize on the reputation of the Rioja pioneer, explains Aznar. While such duplicity would be nearly impossible today, the wire net remains—a reminder of Riscal’s pledge to deliver quality and authenticity
to consumers.
Today, that dedication begins in the vineyards. “We own the vines. That means the soil, the pruning, the harvest are in our hands, and that is the most important thing. To create this amount of wine with such consistency is no easy task, but we have showed consumers over decades that opening Marqués de Riscal always means a great bottle of wine,” says José Luis Muguiro, global sales manager for Vinos de los Herederos del Marqués de Riscal.


Eager to expand its wine offerings, Riscal continues to innovate to bring consumers the “next” thing, or in Spanish, próximo. “We are committed to presenting the best of Rioja in a variety of styles. This means traditional aged Rioja, modern icon wines and wines like Próximo, offering an authentic taste of Rioja in an affordable package,” says Muguiro.
Crafting a full range of Rioja wines, including well-aged Gran Reserva, the accessible Próximo and modern expressions like Barón de Chirel, Marqués de Riscal currently exports about 70% of production to adoring
wine lovers in over 100 countries, and continues to find new fans, with sales soaring in Indonesia, Singapore, China, Australia and Africa. For Riscal’s success, Muguiro credits not only superb quality and great value
for money, but also the increasing appreciation for food-friendly wines especially among savvy American consumers. “We make fine wines that have concentration but also elegance. You can put them on the table with
meat, or Asian food, and the aroma is beautiful, the tannins are soft and the wines do not kill, but enhance the meal,” says Muguiro.
Marqués de Riscal is truly the Spanish château of the 21st century, not just for the ambitious design of the City of Wine, but for all it ref lects: a desire to lead into the future while standing on the great winemaking traditions
of Rioja Alavesa.

The brick color suggests a well-aged wine, richly layered with seamless flavors of black cherry, marzipan and dark chocolate, melding o ‘ n the refined finish. Wine wisdom : Gran Reserva wine from Rioja is aged at least two years in oak and three years in bottle.

Ruby red in color, this wine delivers aromas of vanilla, toasted oak and plum,
with flavors of licorice and spice on the long, dry finish. Wine wisdom : Reserva wine from Rioja is aged for at least three years, including at least one year in oak.

A Rioja in the sin crianza style, this youthful, medium-bodied red offers ripe
strawberry and cherry fruit with savory complexity and toast on the finish.
Wine wisdom : Crianza wine from Rioja is aged for at least two years, including at least one year in oak, while sin crianza wines are bottled younger.

Highly aromatic and fresh, with aromas of tropical fruit and cut grass, this lively
white displays generous texture, fine balance and zesty acidity. Wine wisdom : Rueda is one of the few Spanish regions to specialize in white wines. Verdejo is the primary grape variety, with Viura and Sauvignon Blanc also permitted.
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