Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Little Taste of Spain in Chicago

The Presentation
The Muga family has been making wines for centuries in Rioja, Spain.  Their current facility, in Barrio de La Estacion of Haro, is over two centuries old and houses over 14,000 barrels of French, American, Hungarian, Russian and a small amount of Spanish oak.  Their wines are oak fermented, oak stored and oak aged.  They even do their own cooperage.
The vineyards are located at the foot of Montes Obarenses in Rioja Alta where they enjoy a combination of Mediterranean, Atlantic and Continental climates.  Muga owns 620 acres of vine here, and controls another 370 that are predominantly clay and limestone soils.  The grapes grown are Tempranillo, Garnacha, Mazuelo (Carignan), Graciano, Viura (Macabeo) and Malvasia.  
In addition to their renowned reds, they produce a white and a rose.  The May 2009 Wine & Spirits magazine poll voted them the most popular Spanish wine.  Their 2004 Torre Muga was deemed one of the 10 best wines in the world in 2007 according to Wine Spectator.  The 2006 Rosado received 90 Parker points, deeming it the best rose in Spain and one of the top three in the world.
Their current portfolio of wines is just as impressive.  I had the pleasure of meeting Juan Muga in Chicago this week at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel and enjoying some of his wines.  While the majority of information I am passing along comes from either their website or his presentation on Monday, I have included personal comments on the samples I was able to try.
Imbibing with Juan Muga
The Conde de Haro Cava NV is made of 90% Viura and 10% Malvasia.  The grapes grow on North facing slopes to protect them from the heat and are harvested two weeks earlier than the fruit used for their white wine to keep it crisp.  First fermentation occurs in wood; the second occurs for 14 months in the bottle.  Honey on the nose, with a little banana and raisin.
Muga’s white wine uses the same varietal formula as the Cava but the grapes are double-checked and 50% of the harvest is lost in their quality control process.  This wine goes through a slow fermentation in new French oak and spends 3 months on the lees.  Great alternative to Chardonnay with its golden apple meets guava presentation.
The Rosado is 60% Garnacha, 30% Viura and 10% Tempranillo.  It spends 12 hours macerating, 25 days fermenting in small wood vats then spends 2 months aging before bottling.  Beautiful, light salmon colored rose.  Roses and strawberry on the nose and a surprisingly long finish for a rose.
Enea is the first of the still reds, which is made up of 90% Tempranillo and 10% Viura.   The grapes are grown on the South slope of Sierra de Cantabria just before the brush begins on alternating layers of loam and clay.  They are manually selected before going through carbonic maceration and ending in small wooden vats.
The Reserva is 70% Tempranillo, 20% Garnacha, and a 10% blend of Mazuelo and Graciano.  The wine spends six months in traditional oak vats before being stored 24 months in small oak barrels.  This is followed by a minimum of 12 months in the bottle.
The makeup of the Seleccion Especial is 70% Tempranillo, 20% Garnacha, 7% Mazuelo and 3% Graciano.  It produced using indigenous yeast in oak vats before spending 28 months in casks made from their own cooperage.  It is then fined with fresh egg whites before rounding off in the bottle for 12 months.  Medium ruby wine bearing violets and back fruits; some earth; soft tannins.
Prado Enea is 80% Tempranillo and a 20% blend of Garnacha, Mazuelo and Graciano.  The grapes for this wine, as well as those used in Torre Muga, are picked later for ideal ripening.  It ferments naturally in oak vats without the use of temperature control or added yeast.  Maceration time varies, but is up to 20 days before the wine spends 12 month in 16,000 litre oak vats then 36 months in barrel.  After casking, it is fined with egg whites and spends another 36 months (minimum) in the bottle.  More concentrated fruit; bright blackberry turns earth and leather.
The Torre Muga consists of 75% Tempranillo and 30% Graciano.  The regimen here is six months in wood vats, 18 months in new oak and at least 12 months in the bottle.
Aro is 70% Tempranillo and 30% Graciano.  It spends six months in oak vats before spending 18 months in new French oak.  It ends with 12 months, at minimum, in the bottle.  The showcase wine.  Deep purple with some sediment.  Ripe plum, straw, tobacco, leather.  Very pleasing long finish.

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