Column: Lancashire Wine School

Frank Gehry (Guggenheim Bilbao architect) designed hotel
Frank Gehry (Guggenheim Bilbao architect) designed hotel

Colin Burbidge at Lancashire Wine School writes about Rioja’s most famous wineries, the Marqués de Riscal.

On the edge of Elciego village lies one of Rioja’s most famous and influential wineries, the great Marqués de Riscal.

This company is run by the descendants of the Marqués who introduced the concept of small new oak barrels to the region in the 17th century.

The impact on the area is immediately felt as you can’t miss the Frank Gehry (Guggenheim Bilbao architect) designed hotel which sits adjacent to the winery presenting a striking view.

The tour of the winery is fascinating to see how quality wine is produced on a large scale. The great achievement of this company is to produce consistent high-quality wine with more than 60 per cent of its wine exported to 110 countries.

The company operates in other regions but all its Rioja vineyards are local to Elciego. The grape mix is mostly Tempranillo with Graciano and Mazuelo. The tour costing 16 Euros takes 90 minutes and incorporates the vineyards and all stages of the winery process.

The tasting at the end of the tour was a white Rueda Verdejo and a Rioja Reserva. A previous column was devoted to Verdejo and Marqués de Riscal’s role in its revival so I won’t repeat myself here. The Reserva 2014 is available to purchase across the UK, including Majestic wines at £16.99. This four-year-old wine still brims with fruit character and ruby colour, intense blackberries and raspberries on the nose and the palate combine with tobacco, liquorice and vanilla. The wine has been aged for two years in oak before resting a further year in bottle giving it the traditional Rioja Reserva roundness and complexity. On the tasting we enjoyed with a little of the chorizo on offer… delicious!

After the tour I settled in the café to purchase some more ‘copas’ for tasting. First I have to pay homage to chef for the best Spanish Omelette I’ve ever tasted!

For the Finca Torrea 2015 grapes are harvested from the Torrea vineyards located close to the winery. Ageing is 18 months in French oak before a short period in bottle. A delicious mix of red and dark fruits with fig and coffee, good firm tannins and bright acidity. A little smoky and a spicy liquorice finish. This one retails for around £20 in the UK, which reflects its finesse and complexity.

I was given a special tasting of the unusual and rare Rosado Viñas Viejas. From old garnacha vines in Rueda and aged over Sauvignon Blanc lees (dead yeast cells) this wine is not available in the UK at the moment. (Note – try Corte Inglés when you’re in Spain).

Onion skin colour, the usual rosado strawberry and raspberry accompanied by unusual apple and pear. Fresh acidity but smooth in the mouth. A truly complex and interesting rosado.

It got even better when I tasted the 150 Aniversario Gran Reserva 2010. Production of this wine from 80-year-old vines is carefully controlled with only the best fully-ripe grapes selected from the bunches. Ageing is 32 months in French oak with a further three years in bottle. An absolute delight with raspberry and plum, balsamic notes, coffee and roasted notes with cinnamon spice and black pepper. A truly special wine, this is the one that came home with me and awaits a special celebration!

If you want to visit Elciego as well as the famous spa hotel at Marqués de Riscal there are other hotels in the village as well as several bars where you can enjoy local food and buy ‘copas’ of Rioja wine for very reasonable prices.