If you know anything about Rioja, the chances are good that you’ve at least heard of Muga. If you don’t know anything about Rioja, getting to know the wines of Muga will quickly get you up to speed!
Bodegas Muga is a historic wine producer based in Haro, in the Rioja Alta region of Spain. It is among the most prestigious and highly-regarded Rioja wineries. The cellars were founded in 1932 by Isaac Muga Martínez. Isaac and his wife, Aurora Caño, both had family backgrounds in wine production. Following his death in 1969, the estate was taken over by his children, Manuel, Isabel and Isaac Muga Caño.
Muga owns its own vineyards, winery and cooperage (barrel-making facility). This allows the winery to control each and every aspect of the winegrowing and winemaking process. Its vineyards are located in the Rioja Alta sub region of Rioja, a unique terroir influenced by its surrounding valleys and a combination of Mediterranean, Atlantic and Continental climates. In the winery, oak is a huge component. Oak vats and oak barrels from the Muga cooperage are used in vinification and aging, and aging times exceed the minimum requirements for the Rioja region. Muga Crianzas are more akin to traditional Rioja Reserva, and Muga Reservas can resemble traditional Rioja Gran Reserva.
Find out more about Spanish wines here.
Muga wines are produced in many different styles, colours and regions other than Rioja.
Sparkling Wine: Muga Conde de Haro Brut
This Cava from Muga offers serious value for money. Like Champagne, this wine is made in the “traditional method”. This means that it undergoes a secondary alcoholic fermentation in the bottle in order to become sparkling. It is then aged in the bottle for 14 months. The result is an excellent sparkling wine at a fraction of the cost of Champagne. Muga Conde de Haro Brut is a blend of the Viura and Malvasia grapes. It is a clear wine with hints of yellow and green hues and fine, almost microscopic, bubbles. On the nose, aromas of tangy fruit and floral characteristics are dominant, supported by some honeyed and vanilla notes from the fermentation and bottle aging. The palate is generous and full, with strong acidity and a long finish with some pleasant spiciness. Consider serving this in place of Champagne at your next party, and you will not be disappointed! Muga also produces a rosé Cava, Muga Conde Haro Brut Rosé.
Light Rosé Wine: Muga Rosé
The rosé from Muga is a light and refreshing blend of Grenache, Macabeo and Tempranillo. This easy-drinking young wine is the perfect accompaniment to a hot summer’s day, suitable with food though ideal by itself as an aperitif. It has a delicate, pink rose petal colour and enticing fruit and floral aromas with slight spiciness. On the palate, it is very fresh, with pleasant and smooth acidity. This is a real thirst-quencher, and though light in structure it will complement light dishes of white fish as well as lighter pasta and rice. The Muga Rosé is ready to drink right away, and offers a genuine taste of Spanish summer at a very accessible price.
Red Rioja Crianza: Muga Crianza
Muga’s Rioja Crianza 2012 is a blend of Tempranillo, Grenache, Mazuelo and Graciano. For a relatively young Rioja, it spends quite a lot of time in oak from its fermentation in oak vats (twice the legally required minimum for a Crianza) to 24 months’ aging in oak barrels. Prior to its release, it is aged for a further 12 months in bottle.
The resulting wine is still young and fresh, however. The extended oak aging has imparted hints of spice and dried fruits without any overpowering woody character. Expect a deep red colour with some violet, a nose of fresh red fruits with slight vanilla and a mature palate that still retains some acidity and freshness. It has great length in the mouth, and truly could be confused for a young Reserva.
Red Rioja Reserva: Muga Reserva Selección Especial
Rioja Reserva is required to have 36 months of aging prior to its release, with at least 12 months in oak. In true Muga fashion, the Selección Especial outdoes itself with a whopping 28 months in oak. This is a powerful blend of primarily Tempranillo, backed up with Grenache and small quantities of Mazuelo and Graciano.
Though closer to a Gran Reserva in style, it is a well-balanced wine that still retains a bright ruby colour and a nose of ripe, fresh fruits in addition to the oak-influenced spicy notes. The aging has given rise to a smooth and silky palate, with well-rounded tannins and excellent length. A wine such as this will benefit from decanting before serving, and will go very well with rich game birds or grilled meat.
Red Rioja Gran Reserva: Muga Prado Enea
Rioja wines that are classified as Gran Reserva have undergone some serious aging, and spent a lot of time in oak. They are big wines, not always to everybody’s taste. Indeed, poor examples can be simply overpowered by the oak. The worst examples taste like wood and not much else. This top quality example from Muga is another story altogether.
This wine has been aged for 12 months in large oak vats, a further 36 months in smaller oak vats and a further 36 months in bottle. It has had a lot of time to age and mellow. Its colour is still intense, though begins to show the brick-red edges typical of an aged Gran Reserva. The nose is complex, nuanced, and will reward your patience. Take an early sniff and expect ripe red fruits. As the wine gets more air, later sniffs will reveal notes of wood, then spice, and finally something akin to tobacco or tea leaves. The palate is similarly complex, though showing great balance between the obvious oak influence and an underlying acidity. This is an excellent example of Muga’s mastery of its craft. Decanted beforehand, this will add some serious class to your dinner table.
Learn more from the official Bodegas Muga website here.