Graham does Rioja

This is the sight that greeted members of the Majestic team upon arrival to the Marqués de Cáceres bodega in Cenicero on a recent visit.

The bodega rests twenty kilometres from the city of Logroño in Rioja Alta, at the heart of the Rioja region.

Although only just over 50 years old, the company has a proud history which began when Henri Forner founded the vineyard after returning from exile in France, where his family had sought refuge during the Spanish Civil War. The Forner family used their time in France productively, buying two winemaking Château in Bordeaux and building a number of businesses in different sectors of the wine industry in many other regions.

Upon his return, Forner sought to apply all that he had learned in France to produce the finest Rioja possible. The concept of terroir was key, and Forner set about finding the vineyards that were best suited in terms of micro-climate and geology to make the style of wine he was planning. The photo below, taken at one of the vineyards producing Tempranillo grapes for Crianza production, shows how the Pyrenees, which run along the side of the Rioja Alta region, block clouds and stop the extreme weather from passing over and affecting the vines.

All of the vineyards that Marqués de Cáceres used to source grapes are independently owned, mostly by families who have owned small parcels of land for generations. The families benefit from advice from the winery on how to best look after their vines throughout the season, and different vineyards are used to source grapes for different wines.

Marqués de Cáceres produce a range of wines, from the refreshing Rioja Blanco to the heavyweight Gaudium – a Super Rioja only produced in the finest of vintages. The staple of their production is their Crianza wine, which accounts for around 60% of sales. The fresh micro-climate helps them to produce a classic, fruit driven Crianza. With a refined nose and superb balance, Marqués de Cáceres have taken a long stride away from the heavily oaked approach that is the trademark of many other wineries. The dark, forest fruits are accompanied by lighter floral notes and undertones of spice and coffee, making it a perfect match for lamb, chorizo, paella or lighter cheeses.

The rest of the range is well worth exploring too, especially the superb value 2005 Reserva. In this vintage the grapes arrived at the winery in excellent health with analytical parameters which correspond to an extraordinary vintage. The resultant wine has a dense bouquet of luscious red and black fruits with a rich, layered body of spicy black fruits, superbly integrated tannins and fresh acidity. This wine is drinking beautifully now but I would recommend stocking your rack with a few bottles as they will reward further aging in bottle. The fruit driven style of the Marqués de Cáceres makes them a must-try for anyone who’s turned away from Rioja wines in the past due to heavy oaking.

If you’ve ever considered making a trip to the Rioja region then our team can vouch that there’s lots to see, drink and eat!

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