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One of the goals of The International Wine Review [IWR] is to introduce the world’s unique, high quality wineries to wine enthusiasts who do not have the opportunity to visit them in person. There are, of course, many outstanding wineries and wine regions in the world. We begin with one of the most important Spanish wine regions, Rioja, where we find a winery that combines antiquity with modernity.

A specific feature of this winery is that, unlike most Rioja wineries, it produces only one wine each year, with the exception of truly outstanding vintage years, when an additional superior quality wine is produced. Furthermore it does not adhere to the traditional Rioja rules for producing “crianza”, “reserva” and “gran reserva”. On the contrary, for each harvest it determines how best to vinify and age the; it only uses the Tempranillo produced in its own vineyards, which surround the castle.

The majestic medieval castle is symbol of the winery Bodegas Castillo de Cuzcurrita. In front of the castle and inside the castle ramparts a glamorous rose garden, vineyards and the winery coexist. We start our trips through the wine world with this winery in the hope that they will please our readers and let them become absorbed in the visit itself. In the IWR Report #13 The Wines of Rioja: Classical and New Wave we had the opportunity to earlier taste the excellent wines of this winery. Now we go behind the wines to see the context in which they were produced.


D.O.Ca. RIOJA (Spain)

Bodegas Castillo de Cuzcurrita

The Castillo de Cuzcurrita winery is located in the westernmost portion of the Rioja Denomination of Origin (DO). Therefore we find a fundamental difference with the rest of the Rioja wine region in that its climate has a continental influence with very cold winters and hot summers.

This may suggest that vineyard cultivation may be more problematic. However, it brings unique character to the wines and expresses the soil better than in other areas. The winery works with a total of 25 hectares (62 acres) with “El Cerrado” being the largest one with 7.5 hectares (18.5 acres). This vineyard is located inside the ramparts of the castle that gives the winery its name and dates back to the fifteenth century.

Castillo de CuzcurritaThe only variety at the Castillo de Cuzcurrita is Tempranillo, planted and bush trained on poor soils covered with plenty of rounded cobbles. The vines are on the average 35 years old. The viticulture is characterized by its quality and by respect for the environment with an objective of achieving the best expression of our soils and of the uniqueness of its origin.

vinesHarvest is carried out in 20 kilogram cases. The grape clusters are passed over a selection table, and the entire winery process takes place by gravity. The grapes are de-stemmed and fermentation is effected in small conical tanks. Periodic punch downs are carried out.

The malolactic fermentation takes place in 225 liter French oak barrels. Upon completion the wine is left on lees in the barrels during one year and subjected to batonnage for the first three months. After the wine has matured in the barriques the wine is held in concrete vats for three to four months before bottling. The bottle maturation lasts for at least two years in a subterranean storage area belonging to the winery at controlled temperature and humidity.

vatsThis process creates two unique wines: Señorío de Cuzcurrita and Cerrado del Castillo. Señorío de Cuzcurrita is the wine that best represents the winery and the terroir of the vineyard. Cerrado del Castillo is made exclusively during the great vintage years, when the conditions for optimal expression of the expression of terroir and perfect equilibrium are ideal; until today this occurred only in 2001 and 2004.

The wines of this winery stand out for their characteristic elegance, combining freshness, minerality and balanced structure:

Señorío de Cuzcurrita 2004

Señorío de Cuzcurrita 2004Total production is 31,000 bottles. The wine presents a clear and brilliant Morello cherry color. The nose is a typical Rioja-style Tempranillo, with abundant red fruit with refreshing minerality and notes of toast, well integrated with the oak. The seductive palate is elegant, complex, enveloping, well balanced and refreshing. The finish lingers on, with plentiful hints of terroir.


Cerrado del Castillo 2004

Cerrado del Castillo 2004This wine is the product of two hectares of vineyard inside the castle walls. Just over 6,000 bottles were produced. The color is a very deep Bigarreau cherry red. The nose amazes for the intensity of its aromas, Tempranillo characteristics are enriched with aromatic herbs, balsamic notes and smoky overtones. The palate is very complex and elegant, round but fresh; the wine is highly structured but drinks very easily. The finish is very long lingering and persistent.

By Miguel Reinares, March 2009