Marqués de Cáceres looks for ‘landmark’ wine
Cristina Forner, president of Bodegas Marqués de Cáceres, talks to db about the evolution of Rioja, and finding the next “landmark” for the range.
Riojan producer Marqués de Cáceres is upping its focus on its prestige wines and looking to develop a new “landmark” wine that will complement is current range, Forner told db in a recent interview.
Since the Riojan bodega was created by Cristina’s father, Enrique Forner in 1970, it has concentrated on the best parcels of vineyards and terroirs within its area of Rioja Alta and in Rioja Alavesa, Forner says, but this became of even more important following the financial crisis in the second quarter of 2007. The crisis deflated wine prices across Spain, she points out, and brought into question the sustainability of Spain’s higher quality wines.
“Within this context, we chose to strengthen our quality policy that we consider represents the pillars of our competitiveness within the medium to high sector of the market,” she said.
“Our efforts are therefore focussed on en even more rigorous choice of grapes and vineyards, for which our oenologists adapt the wine-making processes to create wines of unique identity and character.”
A recent development of this strategy is the company’s experimentation with ‘hand-crafted” vinifications for the 2016 harvest, which it hopes will develop a new “landmark wine” to complement its current offer.
“Over the past two decades, several bodegas in Rioja have introduced premium Riojas of diverse styles, high-altitude vineyards,” Forner notes. “We have continued to explore ways of differentiating our wines and to experiment with new methods of “hand-crafted” vinfication that enrich our prestige wines.”
The team, along with the oenologists responsible for its ‘special’ wines, singled out a few small parcels of 70-year-old vines around a hectare site on the hillsides of Cenicero, which they identified as having “unique characteristics”. This primarily came from the 25% gradient and north-facing orientation of the vines, Forner said, which “are ideal for adding a zing of fruit, fullness and charm to structured, dense and rich wines.”
“Together with our oenologist, Fernando Gomez, we launched a new, totally hand-crafted wine-making process, in 10 special French oak open barrels,” she explained. “We are also adapting our vinification techniques to the different small parcels of vineyards for which we have equipped the bodega with small-size oak vats that will allow us to go even further in developing the singularity of the terroirs where we select our grapes.”
Forner said she wanted to be “fully involved” in this wine-making procedure – “breathing, tasting and experiencing its progress, in the hope that we will eventually discover an exceptional wine that will represent a landmark in complementing our range.”
The majority of the company’s vineyards can be found in Rioja Alta (around 84%) with the rest coming from Rioja Alavesa (16%). These include vineyards with 30-50- years-old vines, which are typically small and planted on terraces.
“These are tiny vineyards comprising 0.3-1ha, planted with old vines at altitudes of 400-550m above sea level where we source handpicked grapes for our Premium range, boutique and unique style wines,” Forner explains. “These vineyards represent a bond for the people we work with who are very attached to their land and also our family tradition and history that dates back to 1925.”
“[For us] Rioja is the structure through which we try to reveal all this character as we did in the past with our Gran Cru Classé Chäteau Camensac in Haut-Médoc,” she said. “This policy has given rise to our icon wines Gaudium Gran Vino and MC, as well as our Excellens range from high-altitude vineyards.”
Theses “new generation” ‘icon’ wines represent less than 1% of the company’s production, she says, with limited production because the fruit comes from small parcels of only 9-12 ha of 65-120 year old vines.
“The idea of highlighting specific terroirs for prestige wines is interesting and we are in favour of development with the DOCa so as to consolidate,” she concludes, before adding that quality wines can exceed all barriers and succeed based on their identity alone.
“The quality and prestige of such wines is not determined merely by terroir or by establishing minimum periods of ageing in barrel and in bottle. Many other factors come into play [such as] hand-crafted wine-making procedures, ageing in quality oak barrels.”
“In the end, the most exciting wines -be it icon or gran reserva – are those that are capable of transmitting their diversity, the personality of their terroir and their character world-wide to achieve a prestige positioning and become established as key players in the quality wine panorama. This defends our roots and identity and creates bridges with different cultures,” she said.