Marqués de Murrieta
Founding father, legend and active academic up to today
When talking about Rioja, Spain’s number one wine region, the name of Marqués de Murrieta will come up sooner or later. Castillo Ygay (that's the name of the castle, and after that the estate's great wine) is a founding father, a legend and an active academic in one person. The beginning of modern Rioja is marked by the vines planted on the Ygay estate in 1825. Today, its status is at least as prominent: with its 300 hectares of contiguous vineyards, it is the largest estate in Rioja today.
First and second chapter
The founder Don Luciano de Murrieta influenced the entire wine region with the techniques he’d learned in Bordeaux and his well-defined wine style. Besides Castillo Ygay's monumental building and chateau-like estate structure, they also came up with a similarly ambitious commercial program: most of the first commercial vintage of 1852 was exported, whereby the bottles reached as far as Cuba and Mexico. The second chapter of their history started more than 100 years later in 1983, when Vicente Cebrián-Sagarriga, Count of Creixell, made an offer for the historic winery and subsequently acquired it. The wine history of the new owner goes back a long way – the summer residence of the family and from that point onwards the sister estate of the Marques de Murrieta is Pazo (palace in Galician) was founded in 1511, where the most valued Albarino wines of Rías Baixas are made today. Vicente was working in full swing on the development of Marqués de Murrieta when he died unexpectedly in 1986, leaving behind a large estate and even bigger plans. His then 26-year-old son took his place.
It’s hard to imagine how the 26-year-old university student must have felt when he was handed the management of Rioja's number one estate overnight. However, it’s certain that his father made sure about Dalmau taking his share of the work from early on. “I remember I was 18, when during my first semester of university, my father called me one day telling me: ‘Dalmau, you should know that from today our export manager is no longer working for us’. I asked him if they had found another one to take his place. To which he replied, ‘Sure, you’. By the time I was 20, I had visited the wine markets of 50 different countries,” he says, about the beginnings. The first 10 years were about starting over. He gathered like-minded people around him, who believed that the Murrieta name could continue to be improved. María Vargas (who is one of Spain's best-known winemakers today) also joined at that time, and the intricate detail and depth of the wines are often associated with her.
Grapes and wines
The structure of Rioja is similar to Champagne. Most of the vineyards, almost 80% of them, are not owned by the wineries but by the growers, so frequently the wines of the big brands are made from bought in grapes. In this environment, an even more important fact is that at Murrieta the system is closed – the grapes grown on the 300 hectares are never bought or sold. The Reserva, the basis of their selection, is blended every year from this 300-hectare area, while the crop of the iconic Castillo Ygay has been harvested from the old-vine plateau called ‘La Plana’ since the beginning. With the exception of some white grapes and Cabernet plantings, the main variety here is also Tempranillo, with Garnacha, Graciano and Mazuelo alongside.
The character of the wines can be expressed most easily by drawing a straight line that lists the wine styles of Rioja. There are two clear ends of this scale – one is traditional, which nobody represents better than López de Heredia. And the other end of the scale belongs to the modern and precise Riojas, and here stands Marques de Murrieta with its pristinely pure and finely tuned wines. There is little room for spontaneity in the cellar – the processing part, barrel park and the ageing area are clean, bright and orderly. The taste of the wines is linear, lively, powerful and noble. Marques de Murrieta is at home in the contest that only suits a few people in the wine world: it’s a real icon that has been operating for longer than any of its competitors, while making trendsetting wines for those who are curious about the present of Rioja.
Marques de Murrieta Rioja Reserva 2017
When talking about Spain’s number one wine region, mentioning Marqués de Murrieta simply cannot be avoided. Rioja’s largest single estate doesn’t buy or sell grapes. The Reserva is made every year from grapes (80% of which are Tempranillo) harvested from the 300 hectares. If we were to show only one wine from the region, this would be it.
Marques de Murrieta Rioja Gran Reserva 2015
Even from the first sniff, one can tell that this is a festive wine. Not intense, not fruity, not oaky, but deep and focused, calm and noble. The components move in the same direction, with the promise of complete harmony. No Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva Especial was made this year, so the grapes of the best plots also ended up in this wine.
Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva Especial 2011
It’s as if we had Count István Széchenyi as a dinner guest. Castillo Ygay is a founding father, a legend and an active academic all in one. The first commercial vintage of Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva Especial was 1877 (with the same label as now!), and the previous vintage of it, the 2010, was named Wine of the Year by Wine Spectator.
Pazo Barrantes Albariño 2019
One of the best Albariños of all time. The winery skipped two years in order to release the first vintage of Pazo Barrantes, produced in a completely reconsidered way, with perfect bottle agedness. The 35-year-old vines grow on soil with a sandy top layer and granite subsoil. An elegant, sophisticated and interesting wine, with an endless finish.