“If Rioja has a bodega that can rival the appearance of a great Bordeaux château – a Margaux, Cos d’Estournel or Pichon Baron perhaps – then it is surely Murrieta.
Turn off the busy main road from Logroño to Zaragoza and the winery sits at the end of a long drive, surrounded by lawns and cypress trees. Built in 1872 and lovingly restored in 2013, it makes wines that are every bit as stylish as its façade, combining traditional and contemporary techniques.
Murrieta made its first wines in 1852, but its modern success dates to 1982, when it was acquired by the Count of Creixell, Vicente Cebrián-Sagarriga, who planted new vineyards and began to update the old cellars. His son, also Vicente, has gone even further since he took over after his father’s death in 1996, helped by long-term winemaker, María Vargas.
The winery’s 300ha produce some of the best and most celebrated wines in Spain, led by its occasional Castillo Ygay bottlings (both red and white), Dalmau (one of the few local wines that includes Cabernet Sauvignon) and its ageworthy Capellanía white. Also commendable is its reliable Reserva, which accounts for 85% of Murrieta’s production.” – Tim Atkin, MW, Decanter, Feb 2018
For the last two years, Master of Wine Tim Atkin has published a classification of Rioja wineries. The unofficial guide is styled after the 1855 Bordeaux classification “based on the quality of each winery and its wines.” Atkins has ranked Marqués de Murrieta as the top “First Growth” both years, the highest standing.
Marqués de Murrieta also stands as the most recognized winery on Atkin’s podium: “Best Winemaker of the Year in Rioja” for María Vargas, and “Best White Wine of the Year” for Murrieta’s Castillo Ygay Blanco Gran Reserva Especial 1986. He awarded the Castillo Ygay Blanco Gran Reserva Especial 98 points, the publication’s highest score.
The story of the Marqués de Murrieta winery is inextricably intertwined with the history of Rioja wine. The winery’s founder, the Marqués de Murrieta, brought production techniques to Spain from Bordeaux. In 1852, he produced his first wine in Logroño, moving into the Ygay Estate in the late 1870s. Located at the heart of La Rioja, the Estate is home to Ygay Castle, headquarters of the Marqués de Murrieta wineries. The castle is surrounded by 300 hectares of vineyards. Recognised as one of the most iconic century-old structures in Europe’s wine culture, Castillo Ygay accommodates the whole of Marqués de Murrieta’s winemaking history, a history that laid the foundations of the Rioja Designation of Origin DOCa.
In 1983, the Cebrián-Sagarriga family took up Murrieta’s mantle. In 2007, they commenced meticulous restoration work on Ygay Castle that was finished in 2014 – the year the winery reopened its doors. Visitors can now tour the vineyards and century-old facilities, in addition to tasting the Estate’s wines. Inside the castle are the historic production cellar, the cask ageing rooms, and the collected wines dating from 1852 to the present. It is a private collection of incalculable value.
With the opening of two new production facilities in 2017, Vicente D. Cebrián-Sagarriga, the Count of Creixell and current Chairman of Marqués de Murrieta, will have completed the first stage of the modernization of this historic winery. With the help of his young, highly-skilled team, the Count has linked the history of Rioja’s first winery with its present, while creating a glimpse of a future of craftsmanship and innovation.