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Marques de Murrieta Rioja Reserva Capellania Blanco 2004

Marqués de Murrieta Rioja Reserva Capellanía Blanco 2004

And now for something completely different. After a week of tasting in Bordeaux last week, and in anticipation of my Bordeaux 2009 opinions and notes going online this week, starting tomorrow, I have had a Bordeaux-free weekend. A magnum of fizz from François Pinon, his 1988 Vouvray Brut, also some of Jacky Blot’s non-vintage Triple Zero, and also this wine from Marqués de Murrieta, the 2004 Capellanía Rioja Reserva.

I first tasted this cuvée in the 2001 vintage, if memory serves me correctly; I say that because I don’t seem to be able to lay my hand on a tasting note. The 2002 vintage is certainly familiar, however, as my notes tell me that not only have I enjoyed a bottle over dinner with friends in 2007, but I also tasted the wine when I visited the Murrieta estate in Logroño, in Rioja’s heartland, when I visited the same year. So it was a delight to uncover a bottle of the 2004 vintage recently, this being the latest release from the estate. Although stylistically this wine might seem at odds with my usual preference from the Loire (or elsewhere), namely whites either unoaked or with a very sensitive application using large foudres which have already seen multiple vintages, for some reason I find oak in Rioja – either red or white – can work very well, even when it provides a very prominent part of the flavour profile.

Marques de Murrieta Rioja Reserva Capellania Blanco 2004

The wine is pure Viura, not a highly regarded variety on the international stage, but essential to white Rioja. The vines are planted on the famous 300-hectare Ygay estate, the source of Murrieta’s esteemed Castillo Ygay Reserva Rioja, on the sections at the highest altitude. The fruit was hand-harvested on September 29th and 30th and then pressed in a vertical wooden basket press. Fermentation was in stainless steel cooled down to 12-13ºC where the wine rested for about three weeks before it was then transferred into 100% new oak, in the shape of traditional 225-litre (i.e. small) French barriques, the bottling occurring in December 2007, 17 months later.

As for the wine, the 2004 Capellanía has a rich golden hue in the decanter, although somewhat surprisingly it seems to develop a slightly paler hue with a little exposure to air. The nose displays the oak as expected, but in a very fine, polished fashion, with the aromas of fennel and rosemary alongside bold fruit flavours, redolent of golden-dried oranges. The palate kicks off with a very bold and substantial character, roasted fruits swirled with the honeyed aromas of oak, giving grip and power and breadth. And yet despite this it maintains a freshness, a vein of lemony citrus fruit to contrast with the substance of the wine and the richer flavours, which include elements of vanilla custard. Rich, balanced, well-fashioned, and yet stylistically a wine which will certainly divide opinion with its overt oak character. I find it works well, the result of the quality and depth of the fruit that precedes the oak, but I know others would no doubt react very differently. 17.5+/20 (5/4/10)

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