The contrast between old-world-traditional winemaking and new-world-modern winemaking can be seen from neighboring bodegas in the Spanish wine region of La Rioja. Last month I visited Muga a Rioja wine producer that uses only traditional methods. This month I visited Marques de Riscal, another Rioja winery within a few miles of Muga. Marques de Riscal has been making wine in La Rioja since the 1800’s; however, unlike Muga, they have modernized a lot of their facilities as well as some of the wine making methods.
The modernism is evident from the moment you see the bodega, which is more of a campus than a building. The first thing you notice is the hotel that was designed by the famous modern architect, Frank Gehry. Gehry is most famous for designing the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao Spain. Despite the fact that the hotel is a huge factor in why so many people visit this bodega, the tour guide made it clear that we are here to learn about the wine, not the hotel, when she said “please take a few photos and we will be moving on to the wine.” The Marques de Riscal “campus” consists of a modern building where grapes are slowly pressed and put into large stainless steel barrels for the first two steps of fermentation. The original, 1800’s stone building is still used today for the final step in the wine making process. The wine is stored and bottle aged in this building in order to maintain the original Marques de Riscal “character” that you cannot get without storing the wine in ancient, stinky mildew covered cellars. The old stone building has three foot thick walls which keeps the temperature consistent year round. Inside this building you will also find the bodega’s private collection of wine dating back to 1860. The tour guide informed us that 70% of these bottles are still drinkable.
The production of Marques de Riscal is truly massive. The bodega makes 5 million bottles of red wines and nearly the same amount of white wine each year, 60% of these wines are exported to 90 different countries around the world. As with Muga, it was an astonishing sight to see the sheer quantity of wines being stored, aged, barreled, and sold in this countryside wine haven.
At the end of the tour we were once again offered two glasses of wine to taste; their white Rhueda and their red Reserva. Similar to my experience at Muga, I was blown away but the white wine, Rueda, it is such a crisp delicious white compared to most of the white wines I am used to. This one had a distinct smell of citrus, I couldn’t help but purchase a bottle on the way out for 12 euros. The Reserva was also great and is not difficult to find in the US, I am not sure the price but in Spain it sells for less than 10 euros.
For the wine (and architecture) lovers Marques de Riscal is a must see for those of us fortunate enough to spend time in this beautiful country. If you are unable to make it to Spain than there is a good chance that one of those 10 million bottles of Marques de Riscal wine have made it to a local wine shop.
Marques de Riscal
C/ Torrea, 1, 01340 El Ciego, Alava, Spain
Tel +34 941 606 000 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting +34 941 606 000 end_of_the_skype_highlighting
Fax: +34 941 606 023
About the author: Eric Landon is a 24-year old journalism graduate from Portland, Oregon. He is currently living in Spain and working as a freelance journalist. Eric is a frequent contributor to WAFT through their social media pages on Twitter and Facebook. He spends his free time traveling, writing, drinking wine, eating great food, and taking photographs.