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Gaudium – Feeding the Senses

Marqués de Cáceres launched its superpremium, selected vintage brand back in 1994. It seems it reaches the parts other wines cannot reach, says Charlotte Hey

IT IS difficult for a wellestablished wine brand to innovate at any stage in its history. Many have tried new gimmicks, new grapes, new designs but often the tried and tested method is the most successful.

With a successful portfolio of brands stretching from Sin Crianza to Gran Reserva, exported to 88 different countries internationally, the marketing and oenology departments at Marqués de Cáceres were facing exactly this challenge over 10 years ago. If you cast your mind back, superpremium wines were not part of the wine world’s vernacular a decade ago. “Icon wine” carried some mystique; it was not perceived, as often it is now, as a conjugation of the verb “to con”. Back then, however, Marqués de Cáceres was not out to create an icon wine. What the company wanted to do was create something different, to make a top-quality wine that would represent the best harvests in Rioja. Thus, Gaudium was born.

Since then a plethora of topend, fruit-driven wines have come out of the region, but in 1994 only five or six wineries were trying to produce what the Spanish call a “vino de alta expression” (high expression wine). Marqués de Cáceres was about to take a risk, but it was confident that innovation at the top end of the range would really work.

Anne Vallejo, marketing manager at Marqués de Cáceres, says, “In Latin ‘gaudium’ translates directly as ‘pleasure of the senses’, and with Bacchus on the label we felt we had captured the right image. In Gaudium we wanted to create a wine that appealed to the five senses but that also epitomised the best that we could achieve from our vines. Our chairman, M. Forner, believed that 1994 was the best harvest of the century.”

Since its launch in 1994 only two subsequent vintages of Gaudium have been released onto the market, the 1996 and the 1998 vintage. Christine Forner, CEO of Marqués de Cáceres, says, “The wine represents the culmination of our constant search for quality. It far exceeds the traditional levels of quality in Rioja and is a star product, the superpremium wine within our range that we feel symbolises the prestige image already associated with Bodegas Marqués de Cáceres.” In order to achieve such quality the winemaker turned to a vineyard near the family’s winery in Cenicero, Rioja. Known to the team as “the geriatric vineyards” this selection of small holdings close to the River Ebro produce some of the most intensely concentrated fruit that the winemaking team has been able to get its hands on. The process is rigorous from start to finish and the product is handcrafted but the success of this brand, with its £32-£36 price tag, is not all in the vinification process nor the pioneering spirit.

Successful brand building for a high-quality product is about distribution and Marqués de Cáceres has certainly got the right formula for Gaudium. Not only is the list of export markets long, it is diverse too. And with a maximum of 60,000 bottles produced in any vintage, allocation is the name of the game at the high end of the market. From Switzerland to Venezuela, Poland to Ecuador Gaudium is served in only topend restaurants and premium retail outlets. “When you look at a brand like Gaudium now it seems like nothing new; a superpremium hand-crafted wine, bespoke packaging, a quality image. Only 10 or 12 years ago that was not the case,” Vallejo says. “But we know from our customer feedback that the wine has lived up to its name.”

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