Rioja is a world famous wine region, and rightly so. It produces some truly excellent wines in many different styles. There are wine producers, big and small, making some truly excellent Rioja wine at all levels including Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva. Rioja wines are common in wine shops, supermarkets, wine bars and restaurant wine lists. The region is very well known, in no small part because of the many great brands that make great Rioja wine. Here we will highlight some of the top Rioja brands, including Marqués de Caceres and some other favourites.
Marqués de Caceres
Marqués de Caceres was founded in 1970 by Enrique Forner. Influenced by the brilliant Bordeaux wine professor Émile Peynaud, Forner employed many Bordeaux-style techniques in order to modernise Rioja production. New approaches were introduced, such as improved vineyard management and grape selection, cold maceration prior to alcoholic fermentation and extended ageing in new (or nearly new) French oak. The resulting wines were more expressive of their fruit characteristics than the harsh woodiness that one could have expected of a Rioja at the time. The name and reputation of Marqués de Caceres took off, and continued investment and innovation over the next forty years would solidify its place as one of the great Rioja brands. Marqués de Caceres Rioja Reserva is a guaranteed crowdpleaser.
Bodegas Muga dates back to 1932 and today enjoys a stellar reputation in Rioja and internationally. Its headquarters are in Haro in the Rioja Alta region. Muga wines are famous for their time spent in oak, producing robust wines that can pack a serious punch and pair very well with food. Muga produces Rioja wines in numerous styles, as well as a number of Cava wines. Muga’s Rioja Reserva, Seleccion Especial, is a benchmark of quality for this style in this region. Its winemaking and ageing means that it is more akin to a Gran Reserva Rioja in style and profile, but it is a serious wine and really punches above its weight.
Faustino Rioja wines come from Bodegas Faustino and the brand is well known for its famous “numbered” wines using Roman numerals. Faustino I is the Gran Reserva. As you might expect, it is a powerful red wine that has undergone extensive oak ageing. Some may find it almost too powerful, but after decanting it will open up and reveal itself to be a very fine and supple expression of the Tempranillo grape. A mature and oak-influenced expression, but a very fine one nonetheless. For those without the patience or the budget, look to its younger siblings: Faustino V, the Rioja Reserva, will also benefit from decanting but has spent less time in wood and thus will be more accessible than its big brother. For virtually immediate drinking, look no further than Faustino VII, a vibrant young wine that is ready to be enjoyed with food or by itself. The Faustino brand is well known for its labels featuring historical figures.