Marques de Riscal - The Spanish cathedral of wine


La Rioja is considered by some the more commercial part of Spanish wine production, but there is a certain magic in a wine region that has reigned so well for over 100 years. Take a 30 minute drive from Logrono, to find the quaint "pueblo" of Elsiego. There, against the backdrop of mountains and ochre colours of the town, lies the colourful Marques de Riscal Luxury Hotel, their restaurants, and the Bodega. The City of Wine, is very deceptively named but very fitting.

Marques de Riscal is famous because it was the first winery in La Rioja to properly adopt Bordeaux wine-making methods, making them the pinnacle of wine quality for other producers to follow. They have continued with persistent quality ever since.

The winery's cellar is spectacular, the most impressive and the oldest part underground, and naturally temperature controlled due to the thick walls. Here in their very romantic "Cathedral of Wine" are bottles from every vintage dating back to 1862. When they open these bottles they adopt a special method, where they cut the bottles under the cork so as to not break them and affect the wine inside.

When first approached, Frank O. Gehry, the famous architect, refused to create a modern building in the quiet and picturesque environment of Elsiego. To convince him and to inspire his design, they took him down to the Cathedral of Wine and cut open a bottle from his birth year, 1929, in dramatic fashion. He could not refuse.

In 2002 he began to design his first winery, with a vision to respect the area and create a design in harmony with the surroundings but also to symbolize the celebration and enjoyment of wine. The three colors represent their flagship wine, Marques de Riscal Reserva: pink for the color of the wine, gold for the wires, and silver for the capsule. Using titanium he then created it to form a shape similar to that of a vine.

Today it is one of the Top 100 Wineries to visit in the World, and it is not hard to see why. After a full tour and a tasting of their top wines one is left feeling totally inspired about wine. Baron de Chirel 2006, their signature wine, is made from Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from vines between 80-90 years old, is a benchmark for the outstanding Rioja. This wine that will stand the test of time, and leave us coming back for more.

Credit for this article goes to Ayla Goddard, who recently visited Marques de Riscal's winery in La Rioja, Spain.

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