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The Spanish Series Part 4 – Rioja Wines from Bodegas Muriel

AF MarcaIn the previous article on the wines of Spain (which you can read here), we looked at two reds from Rioja produced by Viña Equía.  Viña Equía makes their wines in the town of Elciego, in Rioja Alavesa.  Since 2010 they have been part of the group of vineyards and wineries owned by Bodegas Muriel, a venerable winery itself, also producing wines under their original label in the same town.  We’ll look at some of those wines here, and a bit more about Bodegas Muriel.

The original Muriel winery was founded back in 1926 by Jose Murua in the heart of Rioja Alavesa, one of the three sub-regions of Rioja MapRioja.  As shown on the map, Rioja Alavesa is essentially comprised of the lands within the Rioja Alta which extend north of the Ebro River.  This is classic Rioja country, and the land feels the influences of the Altantic (rain from the north) and the Mediterranean (warmth from the south and east), as well as the more continental effects from the central plateau (cold winters on wind currents from the southwest).  Summers mean lots of sun and warmth, winters bring cold and snow.  The vines of the Rioja Alavesa grow in an area of exceptional climatic balance.

Under the Muriel label there are three lines.  First is Muriel, which ranges from white and rosé through the various levels of classic Rioja Tempranillo.  We’ll review some of these wines below.   The second line is JME, which showcases the classic varietals of Rioja.  These include Tempranillo, Garnacha, Graciano and Viura.  Lastly, there is the Viña Muriel line, classic and traditional, including a white and two reds, Reserva and Gran Reserva.

muriel wines logoMuriel, as previously mentioned, now has an impressive array of Spanish wines under their umbrella, Muriel Wines.  We have previously reviewed the wines of Viña Eguía and we will look at the Muriel line in this article.  Their are four others, and they are Marqués D’Elciego (Rioja Alavesa), Conde de los Andes (Rioja Alta), Real Companía de Vinos (various regions of Spain) and Pazo Cilleiro (Rias Baixas).  You can see them all at http://murielwines.com/en/.

Rioja Panorama

Here are the wines we recently had a chance to review:

2014 Bodegas Muriel Bianco – white Rioja can be aged in wood, with complex profiles and elegant flavors, or it can stay only in stainless steel, see no oak, and present bright and fresh.  It’s sort of analogous to the spectrum you can find with Chardonnay.  Far less people are familiar with white Rioja.  The grape here is Viura.  Like many Spanish grapes it has other names in different places, and in Penedes it IMG_1023would be called Macabeo and be in your sparkling Cava.  These Viura vines are 30 years old from Rioja Alavesa and Rioja Alta.  They macerate the grapes for three hours after pressing, in contact with the crushed solids, to pump up the aromatic intensity.  Fermentation is solely in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks.  Our thoughts:

The wine is pale yellow with some greenish tones.  The nose is very bright, with tropical fruit, citrus and lychee.  White flowers are there as well.  On the palate it is fresh, with lots of flavor.  The fruit is really up front and clean throughout.  We had this with some nachos and it worked great.  Obviously a perfect match for seafood, don’t be afraid to throw a little spice at this.  Retail at $11.99, and a really good value there.

2011 Bodegas Muriel Reserva – now for some red, and a Reserva level wine.  As a Reserva from Rioja it must have been aged at least twelve months in barrel and at least 36 months overall.  It is 100% Tempranillo from selected vineyards in the Rioja Alavesa and Rioja Alta.  IMG_1025Vine age is between 35 and 40 years.  This particular wine actually was aged for 24 months in half American and half French oak barrels, of which 30% were new.  Another year aged in bottle completes the 36 month requirement.  What did we think?

First off, let this wine settle for a while and and maybe decant.  It poured cloudy and purple out of the bottle the first day, but when I poured a glass the next it was brilliant, clear and deep ruby in color.  The fruit trends a little darker, with complex herbal notes and some anise.  On the palate it is medium bodied, with good structure, slowly building tannins and good length.  We like this.  It has a suggested retail of $19.99, and under $20 is worth it.

2005 Bodegas Muriel Gran Reserva – another wine made from 100% Tempranillo, aged in American and French barrels for 30 months, with an additional three years in the bottle prior to release.  Grapes once again come from both Rioja Alavesa and Rioja Alta, IMG_1024this time from vines averaging 40 years of age.  Here’s our opinion:

This is a vibrant, ruby red out of the bottle and showing no signs of age.  Remember, this is a 2005.  At first the nose is a bit subdued, although all the elements are there, with red fruit, oak, leather, tobacco and some spice.  The palate was also a little light at first, so we let this one open up for a while.  That makes all the difference as everything deepens and broadens.  The palate is silky smooth, with berry and cherry fruit, leather, spice and orange peel.  This is an elegant wine, and what you would expect in a Rioja Gran Reserva.  You should decant this for an hour to get everything it has to offer.  Retail here is $29.99, so your paying under $30 for a top shelf wine that is 12 years old.  This is great value.  Try pricing out a higher end Bordeaux from 2005 in comparison!

These wines are very representative of what we have come to expect from the Rioja Region, and apparently from the Bodegas Muriel portfolio.  Classic flavors, complex profiles and excellent value.

You can learn much more about Bodegas Muriel and their wines at: http://murielwines.com/en/

The wines of Bodegas Muriel are imported to the U.S. by Quintessential Wines, and you can visit them and explore their large portfolio at http://www.quintessentialwines.com/.

To see the previous article in this series, on the wines of Viña Equíafrom Rioja, click here.

To go to the beginning of this series and the intro to Spanish wine click here.

On we go!

A votre santé!

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