Vinopolis Special Feature 8/20/2023

Inside Muga: A Spanish Classic

The name Bodegas Muga is likely not a new one for Vinopolis customers. Since 1932 this winery has been producing world class Rioja wines in a style and method that’s uncompromisingly traditional and incredibly precise. However, how many of our loyal subscribers have actually looked inside the winery itself? Read on to see a few photos and featured wines from our visit to Muga. 

A Look Inside Bodegas Muga

In regards to its wine production, Muga is one of the most traditional wineries in the world, as all aspects of the winemaking process are carried out in oak barrels and vats built by a proprietary in-house cooperage team that takes its craft incredibly seriously. What’s so special about this? Well Muga is the only winery in all of Spain that employs their cooperage team and this dedication to quality plays out in precise control of the oak influence on their wines, creating consistency of house style across vintages and bottlings. The oak for their barrels is selected by hand and by single tree by the Muga family. Below is a photo of 50,000L vats that were built by the very cooperage team we’ve been describing. 

One of several barrel rooms at Bodegas Muga.

Fermentation for all wines is carried out with 100% indigenous yeasts  in the large vats shown above. Technological advances like using gravity for the racking process are beautifully balanced against traditional romantic elements like candlelight inspection of sediments and fining with egg whites. Truly Muga has mastered the symbiotic balance that exists between the advantages of the new and the old. I couldn’t help but gaze in awe as we were led through the enormous connected portions of the Muga barrel rooms, a family member pointing out how some of the vats were more than 100 years old and prized for the inimitable softening they can provide developing young wines.

The shadows of tradition are omnipresent in all parts of the winery

Like other wise Spanish producers, Muga opts to age its wines in oak barrels and bottle for years before they ever reach the hands of consumers. This is both to meet the requirements of the Rioja DOCa, and also because of an uncompromising philosophy to release wines when they’re ready to be tasted. The cellar program runs deep here, with prior vintages stored at impressive quantities to provide the market with gernous opportunity to taste aged bottlings long after initial release. These stunning wines are kept under lock and key just within sight of the winey team, a constant reminder of the longevity and quality  they’re pursuring with each new vintage.

Historic Muga vintages tantalize the onlooker.

We tasted a wide number of wines during our visit to Muga and I was struck by the purity of fruit that all the wines carried. Each had in addition that indescribable “Rioja” quality that comes with richness and complexity of secondary aromas and flavors provided by the elevage. When one drinks Muga one thinks of Spain, and when one thinks of Spain they think of Muga. I came away from the visit and the tasting with an immensely greater appreciation for the quality that resides in Rioja and a producer we’ve long carried at Vinopolis. Try the wines for yourself and see what you’re missing!

A few bottles we highly recommend:

 Bodegas Muga Seleccion Especial Reserva, Rioja 2018 750ml $39 special, 36+ bottles available
*CLOSE OUT SALE WAS $44 NOW $39* Wine Advocate 94 Points “2018 was a cooler vintage, with a fairly long maturation, which made the wines somewhat fresher and less alcoholic, as showcased by the 2018 Selección Especial, a classical blend of the four red varieties from Rioja, Tempranillo, Garnacha, Mazuelo and Graciano with contained ripeness (14.05% alcohol) and good freshness. It fermented in oak casks with indigenous yeasts and matured in French oak barrels, 40% of them new, for 26 months. They were not very happy with the vintage and had to sort and discard, but as they didn’t produce Prado Enea, Torre Muga or Haro, those grapes went into this wine. They are reluctant about 2018, but I think it was a vintage capable of the best and the worst, and this 2018 is floral, expressive and elegant. It’s medium to full- bodied, with very fine, chalky tannins, combining power and elegance. Amazing! 187,200 bottles produced. It was bottled in January 2021.”

Bodegas Muga ‘Prado Enea’ Gran Reserva, Rioja 2015 750ml $84.80 special,  36+ bottles available
Wine Advocate 97 Points “The most classical of their wines, the 2015 Prado Enea Gran Reserva is a blend of Tempranillo, Garnacha, Mazuelo and Graciano, mostly from Rioja Alta (Sajazarra, Cellorigo and Fonzaleche), but the Garnacha is from different plots in the zone of Tudelilla at high altitude. These grapes are always picked last, but the wine has a similar alcohol level as the rest, around 14.5% in a warm year like 2019. The modus operandi is similar to other of the top cuvées—harvested into 200-kilogram boxes, destemming, optical sorting and fermentation in small oak casks with indigenous yeasts. The élevage in this case is extended to 36 months, and the barrels are only 10% new. This is, year in, year out, my favorite wine from Muga, and in this powerful and ripe year, these late-harvesting vines ripened thoroughly and delivered a full array of aromas and flavors so that the wine has plenty of depth and complexity. It has a very classical profile, with incipient tertiary notes, perfumed, floral and rich, textured and beautifully balanced. They compare this 2015 with 2009 and 2005 in terms of style but with freshness in the style of 2001 and 2010. It’s enjoyable but should also develop for a long time in bottle. One of the finest Prado Enea vintages.

Bodegas Muga Aro, Rioja 2019 750ml $349 special,  3 bottles available
Jeb Dunnuck 100 points “Pure magic, the 2019 Aro is 70% Tempranillo and 30% Graciano from a plant by plant selection of the Muga family’s oldest vines of Tempranillo, blended with a substantial portion of Graciano. This dense purple behemoth has a primordial bouquet of pure cassis, graphite, crushed stone, lead pencil, new leather, and hints of spring flowers. Building incrementally on the palate, with full-bodied richness, a huge mid-palate, and ripe, velvety tannins, this is one heavenly Rioja that deserves 7-8 years of bottle age and will age like a First Growth from Bordeaux. Hats off to the team at Muga for another incredible wine. Drink 2029-2059.”All Muga Wines Available Now

MUGA RIOJA RESERVA 2018 750ML$28.00194 JSLink
MUGA FLOR DE MUGA BLANCO 2019$41.90894+ WALink
MUGA PRADO ENEA RIOJA 2015$84.8036+97 WALink
MUGA RIOJA TORRE MUGA 2019 750ML$108.502398 JDLink
MUGA ARO 2019 750ML$349.003100 JDLink