"La Rioja" has always been a vital part of Spain's history. Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Moors, and finally, medieval Crusaders have all played a part in the area's history. The Romans, however, made wine a part of their culture wherever they traveled, and Rioja was no exception. Ancient sites of Roman wineries still exist in and around the area today.
After the Romans came the Moors, and wine making all but ceased. It wasn't until after the famous "El Cid" liberated Spain, and medieval Christianity brought trade via the Crusaders through the region, that it flourished again. The Benedictine monks of Cluny in Burgundy, known for their viticulture, helped to establish three monasteries in the area. But the real improvements to Rioja's viticulture began around 1780 when the need to prolong wine during transport brought about experimentation with different woods and preservatives. Studies were made of the techniques used by great chateau in Bordeaux.
When phylloxera devastated Bordeaux in the 1870s, the French turned to Spain for disease free root stock. Their influence really took hold in Rioja and many of the region's finest bodegas started production on what we now consider as the great wines of Rioja. Bordeaux winemaking methods at the time involved long aging in barrel, a factor that the Riojans took up enthusiastically. So enthusiastically in fact that to this day there are a number of Bodegas that still make their wine in a surprisingly similar fashion to that of the Bordelais in the later part of the 1800s and this also explains why oak aging is such an important part of Riojan winemaking.
This historic Bodegas was set up by Don Rafeal Lopez de Heredia y Landeta, who was sent by boat from Chile at the age of 14 to collect some inheritance from a deceased uncle in Spain, which led to him winning two Military Crosses by the age of 17, banished to France, and then returning to Spain in the late 1860’s with a group of Bordeaux wine makers to sow the seeds for ’The Supreme Rioja’. (Click here for my entry on the Lopez de Heredia winery)
Vina Cubillo is a Lopez’s answer to Rioja Crianza. Following the style of all their wines, this wine could be labeled a class above - as a reserva - but they keep it a crianza. It compares to most other Rioja wineries’ reservas since the wine is aged 3 years in oak, followed by another 2-3 years in bottle. The resulting wine is fruit forward but with developed, older wine aromas. Berry, tea, vanilla and spice mingle in this supple, traditional-style red. Bright acidity keeps it lively. Orange peel and tobacco notes linger. Try this wine at our tasting on Tuesday!