It’s been a few months since I’ve walked the sandy vineyards of Rueda and the sloping terrain of Ribera del Duero and La Rioja with the team of Marqués de Cáceres. Thanks to the business-savvy Cristina Forner, you may know the name from your local wine shop or restaurant wine list. I was very familiar with that cherry red label myself, but nothing could prepare me for the experience I had deep-diving with this producer in Spain.
The history with Marqués de Cáceres runs deep, with ties to Spain and France. Enrique Forner had worked in the wine trade since he was a small boy. In fact, in 1920, his grandfather founded a sales and exportation company devoted to the wines of Valencia.
During the Civil War in 1952, Enrique was exiled to France and decided to take the knowledge he learned from his grandfather and start a similar business in the Rhône and Loire Valleys. Shortly after, in 1963, he purchased two châteaux grands crus classés in Bordeaux, making some of the world’s most exquisite wines. But in 1968, Enrique yearned to return to Spain, and given that many Bordeaux producers and merchants chose La Rioja when feeling phylloxera a century beforehand, he decided La Rioja Alta would be where he would go next. In 1970 Marqués de Cáceres was born.
Today Enrique’s daughter, Cristina Forner, is at the helm of Marqués de Cáceres and has taken the brand to an international level introducing it to more than 120 different countries. It’s essential for me to mention that Cristina is half Spanish and half French (her mother was from Paris), as this DNA influences the philosophy of the winery and the wines themselves. For example, it’s traditional for wines in Rioja to be made with both French and American oak. American oak gives bold flavors like coconut and smoke (depending on the barrel toast), and the grain isn’t as tight compared to French oak, which influences the tannins in the wine, making them feel quite harsh at times. Cristina chooses to use only French oak, both new and old. In speaking with Cristina, she is also big on the French concept of “terroir,” which can be loosely defined as the natural factors in the vineyard plus the winemaker’s “know-how,” which come together to influence what you find in your glass.
A great example of these ideals can be found by tasting their “Gaudium” wine which can be translated as “delight.” The vines for this wine are an average of 70 years old, with a 1.5-hectare plot having vines that are 120 years old…pre-phylloxera! The grapes come from plots in Rioja Alta and Rioja Alavesa with very low yields. This wine is both elegant and brooding, a total “delight” for the palate.
Of course, not everyone wants to spend $30+ on a bottle of wine, so for those just looking for fresh & fruity wines that won’t break the bank, look no further than their Verdejo, rosado, and cava.
I really loved this wine with all things tapas! It’s lively with notes of citrus, peach, and apple. We spent a night tapas hopping on Laurel St. in Logroño, and this wine carried us from dish to dish! For around $10, you absolutely cannot go wrong.
Don’t sleep on rosado from Rioja! You may notice rosado from this area is often darker; however, it was essential to the Cáceres team to make sure their rosado was approachable to all markets, so they kept the color more on the coral side. This wine is dry with notes of strawberries, pink grapefruit, and white blossom. A porch pounder, for sure!
The entire time we were in Spain, I COULD NOT begin a meal without a proper glass of Marqués de Cáceres Cava. As a self-proclaimed champagne snob, I didn’t think this would be the case, but it turns out this wine is just SO food-friendly. Let’s also not forget all the delicious, fatty, salty JAMÓN and how these bubbles cut right through all of that. Pure heaven.
Onto the Rioja! Rioja can sometimes be confusing because of all the different aging requirements. I’ve made some simple bullet points (for reds) to break it down.
Generic: no aging requirements
Crianza: Aged for two years, one must be in barrel
Reserva: Aged for three years, at least one year in barrel and six months in bottle
Gran Reserva: Aged for five years, at least two years in barrel and two years in bottle
If you’ve ever seen Marqués de Cáceres on the shelf, there is an excellent chance it was this wine! I love this wine because it has all the characteristics of a complex wine that can age without actually needing to be aged. Pop it open now and enjoy those black cherry, blueberry, cigar box, and licorice notes. The tannins are silky, and there is a noticeable freshness. This wine is the Fall season in a bottle.
This wine includes grapes from Rioja Alta and Rioja Alavesa grown in very low yields. The wine spends 15 months in French oak barrels and two years in bottle before it’s launched into the market. The result is a well-structured wine with notes of blackberry, cigar box, violet, toasty oak, and clove. This is a wine that will age gracefully as the years go on.
I still can’t believe you can pick up a Gran Reserva wine for under $35, but here we are, and I’m not mad about it. This wine is made up of extremely old vines between 65-85 years old from Rioja Alta and Alavesa. The harvest for this wine is 100% manual, and the grapes spend 24-26 months in French oak barrel. After time in barrel, the wine ages in bottle for four years before it’s released. This wine is dense, complex, and intense. It has a full body and an extremely long finish. Expect to find notes of black plum, blueberry, black cherry, cardamom, violet, sweet spice, smoke, tobacco, and wild herbs.