Years ago when I had restaurants in the UK (pre 1985) I had a passion for Spanish wines. Maybe it was all the travelling back and forth that I did to prepare me for my eventual migration, I did love the oaky tastes and the new to me Tempranillo grape. My tasets have changed over the years and enjoy the lighter wines and more modern techniques, but having been weaned on marques de Murietta and Marquwes de Riscal, I could not possible miss the chance to re introduce to wine lovers the following: 

Marqués de Murrieta was one of the founding fathers of Rioja as we know it. Established in 1852, his family owned “First Growth” estate has a remarkable vision for innovation as well as a deep, balancing respect for tradition, rooted in a strong, historical philosophy. The winery itself is in a prime location, near the southern tip of the Rioja Alta in the middle of their beautiful Ygay Estate, a uniquely special vineyard that guarantees complete control over the quality and style of the Marqués de Murrieta wines.

Castillo Ygay” Gran Reserva Especial is the property’s flagship wine and is only made in the very finest vintages – just 29 times since 1934 – that’s a pretty exceptional drive for perfection! It’s made from the best grapes, which are picked from the iconic “La Plana” single-vineyard, planted in 1950 and located on a Petrus-like plateau, at the estate’s highest point. This newly released 2009 (a wonderful Rioja vintage!) is gorgeously youthful at the moment, with plenty of refined power and beautifully pure fruit – and this fabulous wine is only just in the first stages of emerging and evolving…

The blend is 81% Tempranillo and 19% Mazuelo (Carignan) which is one of the highest percentages of Mazuelo ever used. Bunches are de-stemmed and gently crushed, before being racked into stainless steel vats. Fermentation takes around eleven days, during which they pump over and punch down the cap in order to extract aromas and polyphenols slowly and naturally. The Tempranillo is aged in 225-litre American and Mazuelo in French oak barrels, for 26 months. This array of technical stuff all results in a wine of extraordinary richness, balance and potential longevity.

With 96pts from The Wine Advocate, the 2009 Castillo Ygay is a great addition to Marques de Murrieta’s legacy and will be an outstanding wine to drink for the next 20+ years.

96Pts Luis Gutierrez – “Marqués de Murrieta didn’t produce their top red in 2008, so I tasted the 2009 Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva Especial. In 2009, the final blend was Tempranillo with 19% Mazuelo (or Cariñena), one of the highest percentages of Mazuelo ever. The grapes are now sourced from the La Plana vineyard within the Ygay estate, one of the higher-altitude plots at 485 meters. The grapes fermented and aged separately, the Tempranillo in American oak barrels and the Mazuelo in French barriques for 26 months, given its power. It has that seriousness, character and somehow rusticity of the Mazuelo, austere, harmonious and still young. It has good depth and concentration, still young and lively with fine tannins and a backbone of freshness that lifts it up. It will develop for a very long time in bottle. This is a great classical Rioja for the long haul. 109,000 bottles and some larger formats were produced. It was bottled in October 2014. The prices are increasing but so is the quality. The following vintages will be 2010, 2011 and possibly 2012. I cannot wait to taste them…”


(With thanks to Luis Gutierrez and Katie Wither – Bordeaux Index)