Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Clash of the Spanish Titans: Bodegas Muga

In a previous posting (Wednesday, February 10), I posited that the Wine Barn's Clash of the Spanish Titans wine tasting event delivered in terms of wine quality but under-delivered in terms of wine knowledge. In my view, the winery representatives (David Espinar of Bodegas Emilio Moro and Juan Muga of Bodegas Muga), given the opportunity, would have spent time talking about the wine regions and the wineries in greater detail than the format actually permitted. I will attempt to show the kinds of material these gentlemen would have probably covered. I will cover Bodegas Muga in this posting and Bodegas Emilio Moro in a subsequent post.

Bodegas Muga is located in the Rioja region (named after the Oja River, Rio Oja in Spanish) of Spain, a region with a winemaking culture dating back to the 9th century and codified into law since 1600. Spanish wine law assigns levels to the various wine growing regions and and Rioja was the first region to receive the Denominación de Origen Calcificada (qualified designation of origin) classification. Approximately 90% of the wine produced in Rioja is red with a typical blend of 70% Tinto Fino (local clone of Tempranillo), 15% Garnacha (Grenache), 7.5% Graziano, and 7.5% Mazuelo. Garnacho is used to add flesh to the leaner Tempranillo.
With its proximity to France, Riojan wines have long been subject to influence from the Bordelais. This influence became most pronounced when the French root stock was wiped out by phylloxera causing Bordeaux negociants to seek out alternative sources of supply. This French influence, especially evident in the use of oak, is one of the factors that set Riojan wines apart from other Spanish wines.
Grapes for Riojan wines are grown in three sub-regions: Rioja Alta, Rioja Alavesa, and Rioja Baja. Riojas are made in traditional (oakiness) and contemporary (bigger, more concentrated wine) styles. The key to a quality Rioja is its ageability.

Source: http://www.elcoto.com/en/docrioja/doc2.htm

Bodegas Muga, founded in 1932 by a husband and wife team of the same name, has vineyards that are located in the calcareous/clay soils of the Obarenes Mountains in Rioja Alta. The soil, vineyard architecture, and climactic conditions combine to provide ideal conditions for the growth of high-quality grapes. Bodegas Muga is a traditionalist Rioja producer and uses American and French oak (from its own cooperage) throughout the winemaking process. The Muga non-red product lineup is shown below:
  • White -- Viura (90%), Malvasia (10%)
  • Rose -- Garnacha (60%), Viura (30%), Tempranillo (10%)
The reds are the focus of the portfolio and are arrayed as follows:
  • Reserva -- Tempranillo (70%), Garnacha (20%), Mazuelo (5%), Graciano (5%); aging 6, 24, and 12 months, respectively, in vats, barrels, and bottle
  • Reserva Seleccion Especial -- Tempranillo (70%), Garnacha (20%), Mazuelo (5%), Graciano (5%); 6, 30, and 12 months aging, respectively, in vats, barrels, and bottle
  • Prado Enea Gran Reserva -- Tempranillo (80%), Garnacha, Mazuelo, and Graciano (20%); 6, 36, and 36 months aging, respectively, in vats, barrels, and bottle
  • Torre Muga -- Tempranillo (75%), Mazuelo (15%), Graciano (10%); 6, 12, and 12 months aging, respectively, in vats, barrels, and bottle
  • Aro Muga -- Tempranillo (70%), Graciano (30%); 6, 18, and 12 months aging, respectively, in vats, barrels, and bottle.
The Torre Muga, introduced in 1991, and the Aro Muga are more modern in outlook than the traditional Muga Riojas.

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