Our first 24 hours in Rioja were devoted to the Marqués de Riscal City of Wine. However, what could be more important than the winery tour itself? After a lovely breakfast on the terrace overlooking Elciego, we made our way to the Visitors’ Centre to meet the start of the tour. So many tourists pass through the City of Wine every day! We felt slightly smug that we were staying in the hotel here. We met a couple that day who had travelled over two hours from San Sebastián especially to visit the Marqués de Riscal! We started off with an audio-visual presentation in the contemporary wing of the winery before proceeding to view the exterior, both the historic and contemporary architecture in juxtaposition, and the surrounding vineyards, so beautifully tended, and already showing great promise in early grape development. It was so beautiful to be there amongst the vines, warm Spanish sun beating down, listening to the birdsong…
Back indoors, however, to tour the ancient buildings which date from 1860. Our guide gave an excellent explanation of the entire winemaking process, through from harvest, pressing and de-stemming, fermentation, blending, to ageing and bottling, matched, of course to whichever part of the winery we were currently in. There is something quite humbling about standing in the presence of these vast fermentation tanks, something reassuring about the pristine cleanliness, and something oddly comforting, for me anyway, in the sense of order in the ageing cellars, where the barricas rest in the peace and quiet…
For me, the scents of a winery are very distinctive; I can imagine you could tell exactly where you are by the smell… After we passed through the endless immaculate cellars, we came to the modern botelleria, but not before visiting the old bottle store, where the oldest and most treasured vintages are stored. In the modern bottling plant, we passed through two vast rooms containing many million bottles of wine, how overwhelming! This is an incredibly busy place: bottling, corking, labelling, packing and loading for shipping, all running smoothly if quite noisily!
Last but not least, of course, we arrived at the well-appointed Tasting Room. Below you will find the reviews I posted on Vivino.com on the different Marqués de Riscal wines we tasted over this 24 hours; ratings are out of 5* as per Vivino.
Tempranillo Seleccionado Bodegas 2013
Not a bad welcome- in our room on arrival at Marqués de Riscal… An aperitif before our fabulous arrival dinner… An easy drinker for sure; produced by Marqués de Riscal but from Castilla y Leon, not Rioja… Medium nose of red fruits and all the mediums on the palate, tannins very well-rounded; possibly a little cloying but a crowd-pleaser I’m sure. A nice gesture on arrival… 3*
Rioja Crianza Arienzo 2012
A blend of 90% Tempranillo and 5% each of Mazuelo & Graciana, and aged for 18 months in American oak, this Crianza was part of our set Menu de Riscal yesterday… A medium nose of red cherries and redcurrants, with prominent notes of coconut and vanilla; medium body and acidity with high tannins; also flavours of red cherry and vanilla… Medium finish. Paired exceptionally well with an unusual dish of cod with peppers in a spicy tomato sauce, and also with veal cheek… 3.5*
Rioja Reserva 2010
Wine can only taste better I’m sure after a fantastic winery tour… How I loved the old cellars! The order appeals to me… It was all so aesthetically pleasing! This 2010 Reserva has a medium Ruby colour with an intense oaky nose; also notes of cherries, balsamic spices & vanilla; On the palate, dry with high acidity, high alcohol & high tannin; a little light on the fruit but with a savoury medium+ finish. I would love to try this after an hour or two in a decanter, or tasting again in a few years… 4*
Rueda Verdejo 2014
Rioja Gran Reserva 2005
Stay tuned for our reviews of Roda, R.Lopez de Heredia and Vivanco, coming soon!