“Best Wine in the World” was the banner stretched across the home page for Marques de Murrieta. Marques de Murrieta Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva Especial Rioja DOCa 2010 won the top position in the Wine Spectator “The Top 100 – The Most Exciting Wines of 2010” from their issue dated Dec. 31, 2020 – Jan. 15, 2021. Now let me set the stage, as I was in my local wine shop The Fine Wine Source in Livonia, Michigan and I was asked if I wanted to taste some wines. So far, a normal occurrence and then they poured me this wine and the day was no longer ordinary, but extraordinary.
Castillo Ygay is an icon in Spain, a living legend for three centuries in Rioja and an historic label even among the Rioja Grandes Reservas. There are three sub-regions of Rioja and Rioja Alta tends to be the region that is often named, and it refers to the elevation of this region compared to the other two sub-regions. The winery was founded in 1852 by Luciano de Murrieta and since 1983 it has been owned by the Cebrian-Sagarriga family. When the winery was being built it was found to be part of Rioja Baja (lower elevation), but it makes the region sound inferior and Rioja Baja is now Rioja Oriental; they had enough clout to have the boundary moved, so that the winery was in Rioja Alta and today it is in its own enclave of La Rioja Alta.
Marques de Murrieta Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva Especial Rioja DOCa 2010 and this wine is not made every vintage and the fruit comes the single vineyard La Plana, planted in 1950 (forty hectares) and is on a plateau which is the highest point of the Finca Ygay vineyard on the estate. This wine is a blend of eighty-five percent Tempranillo and fifteen percent Mazuelo. After manual harvesting, destemming and gentle crushing the wine spends eleven days fermenting in Stainless Steel with constant attention during this period. The wine is then aged for twenty-four months in a mix of American and French Oak, then followed up with thirty-six months of aging in the bottle before release. Seventy-five-hundred cases were produced and six-hundred-eighty cases were imported. The nose tantalized me with strawberry and raspberry, cloves and nutmeg, and some traces of tea, leather and graphite. This doesn’t sound like me, but we were discussing this wine in the shop. The wine perhaps is the best example I may ever have of a classic Rioja as it had layers of dried cherry, orange peel and vanilla, but especially the velvety tannins, a totally balance wine and one of the longest finishes I have enjoyed. A year ago, I had the chance to enjoy the 2009 vintage and it was wonderful, but this wine took everyone’s breath away. I imagine that another ten years in the cellar would be awe inspiring and could compete with the dingus in The Maltese Falcon, “the, uh, stuff that dreams are made of.”