August 17, 2013
Traditional Rioja Since 1932
Rioja’s wine origins lie in a 19th century southward migration from Bordeaux, during that region’s initial phylloxera epidemic. At the time, a number of Bordeaux négociants set up shop in the Rioja, bringing with them French techniques. With the end of the phylloxera devastation, the Bordelais went home, but their standards and techniques remained to inform Rioja’s wine trade.
Much of today’s traditional Rioja winemaking is centered around the old railway station in the city of Haro. Within close proximity to one another, a venerable lineup of great names can be found, including Tondonia, la Rioja Alta, CVNE, and, of course, the historic Bodega Muga, founded in 1932. Still under the ownership of its founding family, Muga farms 250 hectares of their own vines in the La Rioja Alta region (where Haro is located) and have long-standing contracts with the independent owners of another 150 hectares. Located in the foothills of the Montes Obarenses, the five principle vineyards (El Estepal, La Loma, Blatracones, La Loma Alta, and Sajazarra) share clay and limestone soils, each with its own unique microclimate, informed by the happy coincidence of continental, Mediterranean and Atlantic influences.
While top vineyard quality and notable vine age are unquestionably important contributors to the wines of Muga, the passion at this bodega (and common among most Rioja traditionalists) is for barrels. An in-house Cooperage employs three experts full time in addition to a ‘Cubero’, a specialist who makes and maintains the large casks. Wood is sourced from France, America, Hungary, Russia, & Spain contributing a complexity and range of spice character to the wines that is the stamp of Rioja.
Bodegas Muga Rioja Blanco 2011 ($14.95) $11.90 special
Stephen Tanzer 91 points – “(90% viura and 10% malvasia; fermented in new French oak and aged for three months on its fine lees): Pale gold. Suave, floral-accented aromas of candied orchard fruits, orange zest, white flowers and brioche. Pliant and broad on entry, then tighter in the middle, offering gently sweet pear and citrus fruit flavors and a touch of vanilla. Finishes sappy and very long, with lingering spiciness and a hint of anise. This wine delivers outstanding value.”
Bodegas Muga Rioja Reserva 2008 ($29.95) $21.90 special
Stephen Tanzer 92 points -“(70% tempranillo, 20% garnacha, 7% mazuelo and 3% graciano, fermented in oak vats and raised in oak barrels for 24 months): Vivid ruby. Heady, exotic aromas of candied dark berries, vanilla, cola and dark chocolate, with a slow-building floral quality. The palate offers sweet cherry-vanilla and licorice flavors, along with notes of rose pastille and bitter chocolate. Finishes sweet and long, with silky tannins adding shape and gentle grip. This is the only red wine that Muga bottled this vintage so all of the Prado Enea fruit went in here.”
Bodegas Muga Rioja Reserva Seleccion Especiale 2006 ($39.95) $33.00 special
Stephen Tanzer 92 points -“(70% tempranillo, 20% garnacha and the rest mazuelo and graciano): Saturated ruby. Pungent cherry and dark berry aromas, with spice and floral nuances adding complexity. Sweet and concentrated, but with excellent cut and vivacity to its dark fruit flavors. Builds and deepens toward the back, finishing with a sappy floral quality and resonating spiciness. Offers very good richness of flavor with no excess fat.”
Bodegas Muga Rioja Gran Reserva Prado Eneo 2004 MAGNUM ($129.95) $99.00 special
Wine Advocate 94 points / Stephen Tanzer 94 points – “(80% tempranillo, with garnacha, mazuelo and graciano): Dark ruby. An intensely perfumed nose displays cherry-cola, cassis, licorice and woodsmoke, with a sexy floral quality and very good focus. Juicy, penetrating dark fruit flavors are given spine by tangy acidity and pick up bitter chocolate and spicecake nuances with air. Supple tannins add shape to the very long, sappy, smoke-accented finish. This is still a baby.”
Bodegas Muga Rioja Gran Reserva Prado Eneo 2005 ($69.95) $49.00 special
Wine Advocate 95 points – “The 2005 Prado Enea Gran Reserva spends 36-months in oak, nine months in new oak after which it is racked into American oak that is “semi-new” (i.e. a new barrel that is “broken in” with a wine beforehand). It has an unashamedly opulent bouquet of primal, ripe, boysenberry, mulberry, dark chocolate and crushed violets that blossom with aeration. The palate is full-bodied with crisp acidity cutting through the pure blackberry and cassis fruit. It has wonderful focus and intensity, though the finish demonstrates convincing composure. This is an outstanding Gran Reserva whose silky texture will instantly win you over. Drink 2013-2030+”
Bodegas Muga Rioja Torre Muga 2006 ($79.95) $59.00 special
Wine Spectator 94 points – “Toast and cola notes frame rich plum and fig flavors in this concentrated red, which is bright and polished, though there’s depth under the muscular tannins. Impressive in the modern style. Best from 2011 through 2021.” 75% tempranillo, 15% mazuelo and 10% graciano.
“Today, Muga is making some of the finest wines in Rioja and is an exemplary Rioja winery. Muga wines are both classical and new wave in style. It sources grapes from its own vineyards and from more than 50 neighboring growers. Muga’s wines are fruit rich, beautifully balanced, nuanced, and a pleasure to drink. Noteworthy are the Prado Enea Gran Reserva, Torre Muga and Aro, wines that typify Muga’s commitment to producing new wave but authentic Rioja wines.” – The International Wine Review