2017 Marques de Caceres Crianza
I swear, Rioja is one of the best possible places to be drinking wine in the world right now.
Since Spain joined the EU, Rioja has seen a revolution in its wines. This revolution generally breaks down into two camps. Traditionalist producers use long-term cask aging to create wines of stunning bouquet: roses, orange blossom, toasted walnuts and sage with a rapier-like, mineral-driven finish. Modernist producers use riper fruit and newer barrels to create wines of Cabernet-like intensity: with powerful notes of blue and black fruit, supple and suave richness.
We stock—and love—both traditionalist and modern producers at the store, but there is one winery I want to draw your attention to – Marques de Caceres.
This winery, and with its sensational 1970, is considered to be a turning point in the long history of winemaking in Rioja – modernizing winemaking and bringing the resulting Rioja to international attention. Before Marques de Caceres, Rioja wines didn’t even put vintages on the label. After Caceres nothing would be the same, as the entire region shifted to making higher quality wines.
How did this come about? Actually, through exile.
The wine-making family behind Caceres is named Forner. In the early 1920s, Grandfather Forner started working in the wine trade as a young boy. Unfortunately, because of the Spanish Civil war, he was exiled to France. There, as an enterprising young man, he made his first fortune in the wine industry selling Rhone and Loire Valley wines. His son, Enrique, dreamed of returning the family from exile to Spain. But it was not yet to be. Instead, Enrique set off to Bordeaux, where he made a second family fortune. He also met the preeminent Bordeaux viticulturalist Emile Peynaud and they became good friends, eventually purchasing two Grands Cru Classe chateaux with Peynaud at the helm. Finally, in the waning days of the Franco regime, the Forner family returned home to Spain.
Enrique brought his family and Peynaud to Rioja, with the idea of making a grand return to their home country, bringing modern Bordeaux winemaking methods to Spain. So it was that Enrique and Peynaud made their legendary 1970 vintage on the crush pad of a local co-op, bringing about the birth of modern Rioja and establishing a third Forner family wine empire.
Enrique did not build this empire alone. His daughter, Christina Forner, was key to marketing the wines internationally and is at the helm to this day. Their stunning Crianza is our offer today.
To me, this Crianza is the ultimate expression of harmony between modern and traditional styles of Rioja – in smell, flavor and historical perspective. I’ll do the latter explanation first because I think it illuminates the wine. While Caceres’ 1970 Rioja was revolutionary, other Riojas, starting in the 1990s, would become “hyper-modern” with lots of extraction and new French oak. I love those wines and Caceres does make some like that. But this Crianza, as of 2021, most commentators feel runs rails right down the middle: it’s not a savory, lean, ultra-traditional style; nor is it concentrated, oaky, hyper-modern. Between those two, is this gorgeous wine:
With the first smell comes the gorgeous expression of black raspberries, freshly hulled strawberries, and Chambord. These are complimented with notes of exotic spices, balsamic reduction, violets and dried rose petals. On the palate, its charming elegance is enrapturing: a lively minerality is balanced with Rioja’s classic silky elegance.
This wine is exquisite to drink now – it’s already four years old – but I also want to share with you a little secret. Riojas like this one age extremely well. Maybe you have a special occasion to celebrate from 2017, such as a birth, marriage, or graduation; or maybe you are just interested in starting a cellar to understand the glories of old wine. Whatever the occasion, don’t miss this Rioja. Double, triple, or quadruple your input and drink it now, tomorrow, next year, or decades from now.
Why the name Marques de Caceres? Enrique had an old family friend who was indeed the Marquis of Caceres, a small town in Extremadura in southwest Spain. This title was first awarded during the war of the two Sicilies and had been passed down ever since. Enrique was the new guy in town, but every other winery had a Marquis (think Riscal and Murrieta), so why shouldn’t he? For a small slice of the company, the Marquis of Caceres allows his title to grace the label ever since.
For superb quality and value, Rioja is one of the best places to be drinking. Cheers!
“Sweet blackberry, blueberry and bark aromas follow through to a full body with a compact palate of medium, round and chewy tannins and a flavorful finish. Drinkable now, but better with a year of bottle age.” – James Suckling