Elegant and gracious, Cristina Forner, president of Marqués de Cáceres wines, has a regal but warm presence. Affectionately called La Marquesa, Cristina technically does not hold a title but she is certainly wine royalty - her family has been in the wine trade in Spain for five generations. In 1970, her father Enrique Forner took their family legacy to the next level when he founded Marqués de Cáceres in Rioja. The winery's impressive name was given by a family friend who held this title which was granted by the King of Spain in the 18th century. The story behind the name is intriguing but it was Mr. Forner's winemaking techniques that put Marqués de Cáceres on the map and played a pivotal role in elevating the status of wines from Rioja.
When Cristina's father Enrique founded Marqués de Cáceres, he was determined to create something vastly different from the antiquated production methods that had dominated the Rioja region for centuries. Instead, Forner opted to make wines in the Bordeaux method and implemented techniques such as French oak aging and long refinement in the bottle to enhance the qualities of the region's signature Tempranillo grape. These techniques are quite the norm now but in 1970 it was quite revolutionary - Forner was a true trailblazer. Over lunch with Cristina at La Masseria restaurant in Manhattan, I was introduced to an incredible selection of wines from the Marqués de Cáceres portfolio - they truly have a wine for every palate, cuisine, occasion, and budget. Here are a few of my favorites.
Chances are that you've seen a bottle of Marqués de Cáceres in your local wine shop - their wines are available in more than 120 countries. Their Rioja Crianza ($10 for the 2011 vintage) is one that I've sipped many times. You can always count on their Crianza to deliver a wonderful drinking experience for a fantastic price. Aged one year in oak and a minimum of one year in the bottle before release, this deep ruby red wine is a blend of mostly Tempranillo (85%) with a touch of Garnacha Tinta (10%) and Graciano (5%). Juicy flavors of raspberry and strawberry are balanced with a hint of spice and a touch of vanilla.
image courtesy of Marqués de Cáceres
Marqués de Cáceres is closely identified with the red wines of Rioja, so I was pleasantly surprised by Verdejo 2015 ($10) - their white wine from Rueda.The Rueda region is in the center of Spain, just north of Madrid, and the Verdejo grape has been grown there for centuries. This is a white grape with plenty of personality and a great sip for spring and summer. Exuberant flavors of green apple and citrus are balanced by great minerality and subtle hints of herbs. Verdejo is a very happy vino!
Rosé season is upon us and Marqués de Cáceres Rosé 2015 ($12) is a worthy addition to your roster. Fresh and young with no aging in oak, this medium-bodied beauty is mostly Tempranillo (96%) and a touch of Garnacha Tinta (4%). The color is absolutely stunning and it tastes of fresh red cherries with a hint of aniseed. Not too sweet and with great acidity, this is an incredibly versatile wine that is perfect to sip as an apéritif or to pair with foods such as the Prosciutto with Burrata and Tomatoes that we enjoyed at La Masseria.
Voluptuous and bold, Marqués de Cáceres Rioja Reserva 2010 ($25) is a very special vino. Made exclusively in the best vintages, the grapes chosen for this bottle are selected from vineyards that are 25-35 years old. Mostly Tempranillo (85%) with a bit of Garnacha Tinta (10%) and Graciano (5%), this vino luxuriates for 20 months in French oak and spends another 2 years aging in the bottle before release. Rich flavors of dark fruits like plums and black cherries are enhanced by beautiful hints of chocolate, coffee, and cinnamon. A superb wine at a fantastic price.
A view of Rioja - the vineyards of Marqués de Cáceres.
image courtesy of Marqués de Cáceres
From refreshing whites & rosés to complex reds, Marqués de Cáceres has an incredible portfolio of wines. Their wines truly have a sense of place. Many years ago I studied in Spain and each sip transported me back to that very special time in my life. If you're planning a trip to Spain, Marqués de Cáceres welcome visitors for tours and tastings at their winery in Rioja. Salud!