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Issue: September 2010
Rioja by Way of Bordeaux

by: David Gadd
MARQUÉS DE CÁCERES CONTINUES THE REVOLUTION IN RIOJA


One of Spain's most traditional winemaking regions, Rioja was once known for long-aged Tempranillo-based wines that languished for decades in dusty, cobweb-laced cellars, acquiring brickish color, heavy sediment and, quite often, oxidized flavors. Thing change slowly in Rioja, but in the 1970s, Henri Forner instigated a quiet revolution in the region when he began applying French winemaking techniques to the region's signature Tempranillo grape. Today, his winery, Marqués de Cáceres, is one of the most important producers in contemporary Rioja.

 

During the Franco years, the Forner family settled in France, where Henri and his brother acquired two abandoned Bordeaux properties in the 1960s-Château Camensac and Château Larose-Trintaudon-and refurbished them. After success with these projects (which have since been sold), Forner turned his attention to Spain, and to what he considered its premiere region: Rioja Alta.

 
 
Herni Forner and his daughter Christine at Marqués de Cáceres in Rioja.
PHOTO COURTESY OF MARQUÉS DE CÁCERES


He named his new bodega after a close friend, the Marqués de Cáceres, a member of the Spanish nobility. Under the guidance of celebrated enologist Emile Peynaud of the University of Bordeaux, Forner brought French style-and French oak-to Rioja, creating a new style of cleaner, more delicately nuanced wines that were intended to rival the best of Bordeaux, but on Spanish terms.

Today, Henri Forner's daughter Christine Forner runs Marqués de Cáceres, and there is still plenty of French input, from world-class roving consultant Michel Rolland. The extraordinary success of these wines has seen Marqués de Cáceres expand to 115 countries worldwide, including the all-important U.S. market. Export Manager Luis Burgueño reports that the marque is particularly strong in Florida (thanks to the state's Latin consumer base), with other strongholds in California, Texas and New York.

  The core range consists of the Marqués de Cáceres Rioja Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva, and the portfolio also includes the elegant Gaudium, an old-vine blend of 95% Tempranillo and 5% Graciano aged 18 months in French oak and cellared a further two years in bottle before release, it's a wine that Burgueño calls "our Super-Rioja."

For palates accustomed to more fruit-forward (read: California) wines, the 100 percent Tempranillo Marqués de Cáceres "MC" is aged for just under a year in French oak and given only a couple of months in bottle. "This is our answer to the new trend of big, jammy, aggressive wines," notes Burgueño. The portfolio is filled out with a lovely Rioja Rosé made from Tempranillo and Garnacha and the 100% Viura Rioja White. Barrel-fermented white Viura-Malvasia blend Antea and the semi-sweet Viura-driven white Satinela are sold in smaller quantities.

Marrying French refinement with Spanish commitment, Marqués de Cáceres continually stays on Rioja's leading edge.

Marqués de Cáceres is imported by Vineyard Brands.

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