Marqués de Vargas

As I’ve explained in several earlier posts, every month our local newspaper LA RIOJA organizes a tutored tasting of the wines from a Rioja winery led by the winemaker.  We had to wait all year –  until December 21 –  to taste the wines from the Marqués de Vargas group but it was well worth it!  For me it was the highlight of a year of fantastic tastings.

The group has wineries in three DOs:  Rioja, Rías Baixas and Ribera del Duero.  We tasted wines from all three, starting with Rías Baixas.

Pazo San Mauro 2008 100% albariño.

Pale yellow with gold reflections. A citrusy, tropical fruit nose, perfectly balanced.  Unctuous, with good acidity on the palate.

An extremely attractive wine.

San Amaro 2007  95% albariño, 5% loureiro.  Vinified for five months in barrel.

Greenish yellow, surprising for a barrel fermented white.  I found a nutty character on the nose, along with fresh citrus and tropical fruit.  More body than the previous white with a long mouthfeel.

I thought San Amaro was fantastic, and proof that the wines from Rías Baixas don’t necessarily have to be consumed young.

Of course, everyone was excited about tasting the three Riojas, and no one was disappointed.  All of them were made from grapes grown on the winery’s 70 hectare estate just east of Logroño.  The vineyards, among Rioja’s most famous, are part of the ‘Three Marquis’: Marqués de Murrieta, Marqués de Vargas and Marqués de Romeral, located next to one another.  These three properties have waged a battle with the regional government because of a proposed widening of the N-232 highway between Logroño and Zaragoza that would mean razing part of the vineyards.  As far as I know, the issue hasn’t been resolved yet.

Marqués de Vargas reserva 2005.  75% tempranillo, 10% mazuelo, 5% garnacha and 10% ‘others’, a synonym for cabernet sauvignon.  CS  can be used by the wineries that participated in the cabernet experiment in the 1980s and early 1990s.  However, the catch necessary for its use is that any reference to it is forbidden in the wineries’ brochures or on their websites. This is an example of the sometimes convoluted politics in Rioja.

Aged for 22 months in American, French and Russian oak of different ages.

Brilliant ruby, well-banced nose with sweet oak, dark fruit and  milk chocolate.  Balanced, elegant tannins with a long mouthfeel.

My favorite of the night.

Marqués de Vargas Reserva Privada.  Aged for 23 months in Russian oak.

Intense ruby, dark fruit,  kirschberry liqueur.  Extremely elegant on the palate.

Hacienda Pradolagar 2004  40% tempranillo, 10% mazuelo, 10% garnacha, 40% ‘others’.  Aged in French and Russian oak.

Deep ruby.   Forest floor, cigar box, slightly bitter cherries.  On the palate, elegant tannins, well balanced.  Will improve with time.

Conde de San Cristobal (DO Ribera del Duero).  Vintage:  unknown – I forgot to write it down. 80% tinto fino, 10% cabernet sauvignon, 10% merlot.  Aged for 12 months in new French, American and Russian oak.

Very deep ruby.  Blackberry, tobacco, mineral nose.  Round and elegant on the palate.

Young wine from 2009 ( Rioja).  50% tempranillo, 50% garnacha

In spite of its youth, the wine showed very elegant tannins.  Very grapey, as expected.

I liked several things about this tasting:

  1. all the wines, the reds as well as the whites evolved positively in the glass, showing great depth of flavor
  2. a little cabernet sauvignon doesn’t make these wines taste any less like Rioja but rather adds complexity
  3. the three Riojas showed ripe, elegant tannins.  For me, this is a hallmark of this winery and something that other wineries here should emulate.
  4. Wines from Rías Baixas can age.