Francisco Hurtado de Amézaga
White, rosé and red wines designed for easy drinking.
The twisted aluminum ribbons swathed over the Hotel Marqués de Riscal gleam in the Spanish sunlight, their purple, gold and silver hues mirroring the wines and their bottles made in the bodega below. The Frank Gehry masterpiece is now a familiar sight on the Rioja landscape, a futuristic aesthetic belying the history it encases.
Founded in 1858, this is where the first ever Rioja wines were bottled, with the then Marquis’ first vintage in 1862. It is also where the trend for covering bottles of Rioja in golden mesh began, the estate’s wines having become so popular by the early twentieth century that they required a form of seal to ensure authenticity. Marqués de Riscal can furthermore be credited with introducing white wines to the nearby province of Rueda and assisting its elevation to DO status in the 1970s; there is a lot to learn and discover at this adventure-land of a winery.Your visit
As part of the Marriott hotel chain’s Luxury Collection the Gehry structure, which opened in 2006, is just as intriguing on the inside as out – expect tilted walls, zigzagged windows, high ceilings and lots of colour throughout its 61 rooms (including 10 suites). Two contrasting wings are joined by a raised glass corridor which sunlight streams through, and views from the lounge terrace offer the winelands of Rioja to one side and the gastronomic promise of the Basque Country on the other. These two worlds are combined at the Michelin-starred fine dining restaurant within, headed by local superstar chef Francis Paniego. A six or nine-course ‘Ideas Land’ menu is the perfect way to sample the area’s delights, expertly paired to wines by the sommelier team with some rare vintages making an appearance too. Elsewhere, there is another restaurant, a wine bar and al fresco grill, plus a Caudalie Vinothérapie spa.
At the heart of this ‘City of Wine’ is the Plaza del Reloj (‘Square of the Sun Dial’) where you’ll find the original bodega, built in 1860 and home to the old cellars with bottles dating back to the first ever vintage. In 1883 the building was extended in the Bordeaux style and, known as El Palomar (‘The Dovecote’), this is where the family’s premium wines are now made. The vineyards can be explored by foot, bike or horse, with golf and paddle-tennis on offer as well. The surrounding medieval town of Elciego – like many here in Álava – is rich in culture and history.The wines
Reds are made predominantly from the signature Tempranillo grape, with some Graciano and others also going into a summery rosé blend. A sturdier rosé comes from Castilla y León and whites from the family’s Rueda vineyards, using Verdejo and Sauvignon Blanc. All are designed to be original, fresh and easy to drink.