Marques de Riscal in Rioja was founded in 1858 by Don Camillo Hurtado de Amezaga, who decided to start a winery to make wines rivaling the great Bordeaux of France. Phylloxera had devastated much of Bordeaux’s vineyard acreage, and Don Camillo thought the time was right to produce high quality Spanish wines. He planted Tempranillo, and by the late 19th century the estate was winning international awards for its fine wines, including competitions in Bordeaux. The winery’s reputation for fine wines has lasted throughout its history. The estate also made international news in 2006 when it opened a luxury hotel and visitor designed by architect Frank Gehry center at the winery.
Rioja Demoninación de Origine Calificada is Spain’s most important wine region. Located in northern Spain, it comprises 135,000 vineyard acres and was the first official appellation in Spain, earning its official DO status in 1926. In 1991 it became Spain’s first DOCa, Spain’s most prestigious appellation category. The DOCa is divided into three subzones: La Rioja Alavesa in the northeast; La Rioja Alta in the southwest; and La Rioja Baja in the east. About 75 percent of Rioja wines are reds, with Tempranillo the predominant grape. Garnacha (Grenache), Mazuelo (Carignan) and Graciano, a spicy, high-acidity red grape, are also allowed. White wines are made from Macabeo, Garnacha Blanca and Malvasia. Wines were made in this region well before the Romans arrived, though the Romans then the medieval monks refined vineyard management and wine production. In the 19th century French families migrated to Rioja after phylloxera wiped out their vineyards, and the French helped establish the tradition of wine blends, still part of Rioja winemaking. According to the rules for the appellation, a wine labelled a simple Rioja can spend less than a year in an oak aging barrel. A Criziana is aged for at least two years, one in oak. Rioja Reserva is aged at least three years, with at least one in oak. A Rioja Gran Reserva must be aged at least five years, with two years in oak.
Think leather and cherries together for Tempranillo wines. This wine looks lighter than it is. It can be medium or full bodied, but its thin-skinned, big grapes, give it a more transparent appearance. It is grown in Spain, Portugal, the U.S. and Australia.