Bodegas Martínez Corta’s 2014 Cepas Antiguas Selección Privada Rioja constitutes one of the best values in Rioja wine. This Cepas Antiguas spent just enough time in new French oak to imbue it with everything it needs to please and succeed in life, including a bright ruby robe, a soft seductive aroma of blueberry, red cherry and plum mingled with hints of cinnamon, clove and vanilla, as well as wonderful flavor and texture. Each sip engages the taster and reveals smooth rich flavors that make the eager palate plead for more. Although young and vibrant, we found the 2014 Martínez Corta Cepas Antiguas easy to drink from the moment it was opened, yet for optimal enjoyment we suggest at least 15-20 minutes of aeration to allow the wine to reveal its many attributes. With all fine Rioja reds, serving at cool room temperature (60º-64° F) will add to the enjoyment.
Food and wine critics and the multitude of self-proclaimed connoisseurs don’t always agree, except when it comes to what to serve with red Rioja wine. Beef gets the perennial nod with fine red Rioja, and, indeed, steaks and filets offer excellent accompaniments to the 2014 Martínez Corta Cepas Antiguas Selección Privada. However, olive oil, rosemary and thyme brushed lamb chops or pork kebobs grilled over a charcoal fire provide equally compelling complements to Cepas Antiguas. A simple rotisserie roasted chicken, basted with Mediterranean herbs, butter, olive oil, and garlic pairs splendidly, too. Valencia style paella made with shrimp, chicken, and sausage offer another gustatory delight as the complex flavors in the paella bring out the savory notes and subtle complexities in the Cepas Antiguas. Meatless pasta dishes also rank high on our list of accompaniments. Penne pasta, served with a heady white bean sauce that’s made with plenty of onion, garlic, red pepper, celery, and grated hard cheese highlight perfectly the warm inviting flavors of the 2014 Cepas Antiguas. Enjoy!
Rioja is a must stop for any lover of Spanish wine, but what makes the journey truly special is meeting the families who make the wine – in this case the Martínez Corta family, who for more than 50 years have been making wine in the Rioja Alta. Begun by the present owner’s grandfather, Bodegas y Viñedos Martínez Corta remains a truly family affair. The bodega is expertly run by the founder’s son and his children and their spouses. One of my fondest memories of a recent trip to Spain was the wonderful reception afforded us by the Martínez Corta family, followed by a splendid lunch at the bodega that the entire family prepared and attended. What followed was an exceptionally detailed tour of the bodega’s vineyards and Martínez Corta’s new, squeaky clean winery. Yet, what remained most impressive and in evidence throughout our visit was the enthusiasm and passion expressed by each of the family members. Although each has a different role to play, everyone has the sense of how his or her work is vital to the family and the bodega’s overarching passion to produce the finest, most authentic Rioja wines possible.
Bodegas Martínez Corta began in the village of Uruñuela in the 1960s at a time when the labor in the vineyard was done manually with the help of a mule and simple machines. Today, the family has a state of the art facility (the envy of many a larger Rioja bodega) completed in 2006. What began as a tiny family winery is now one of Rioja’s rising stars. Bodegas Martínez Corta produces a burgeoning portfolio of Rioja wines from 225 acres of old head-pruned Tempranillo vines, all located in the Rioja Alta. The bodega’s vines range from 40-100 years of age. Cepas Antiguas Selección Privada (meaning “old vines private selection”) is the bodega’s most important single wine. Martínez Corta also fashions smaller quantities of Rioja Blanco and Rosado, a number of Crianza Rioja offerings, and a special proprietary Rioja named SOROS (The Author).
“La Rioja is a land of history, light and color, vines and wheat and above all, people for whom friendship is the greatest possible treasure,” once stated the Rioja Minister of Tourism. Happily, our experience echoes that sentiment. Rioja is indeed a special land, etched by history and endowed by a special wine, also known as Rioja, and it is a wine as warm, friendly, and distinctive as the people of this unique land. In addition, Rioja is the most approachable and recognized name in Spanish wine.
Vineyards have always influenced the history and character of the people in the Rioja. Long before France was a bastion of fine wine, the Romans had pushed inland from the Mediterranean to the headwaters of the Ebro River and its tiny tributary, Rio Oja, from which Rioja derives its name. In Rioja the Romans found ideal conditions for the cultivation of the vine – and quite possibly even the Tempranillo, Mazuelo, Graciano and Garnacha (Grenache) grapes that today constitute the red wine of Rioja.
For centuries, the fortunes of the Rioja moved with the political and social landscape of Europe. However, like most of the great viticultural regions of Europe, the face of modern Rioja was cast during the 19th century. With the hope of escaping the twin scourge of oidium and phylloxera that had struck Bordeaux, many successful Bordeaux growers began moving south across the Pyrenees to the Rioja in the 1860s and 1870s. With them flowed the capital and the expertise to enrich and improve the already splendid vineyards of Rioja. These transplanted Bordelais instituted extended barrel ageing, which remains the signature of the finest Rioja wines
Today, Rioja is once again a growing viticultural region. It encompasses more than 60,000 hectares (132,000 acres), divided into three distinct zones: Rioja Alavesa, Rioja Alta, and Rioja Baja. However, what may come as a surprise to many is that the name Rioja can be afforded to either the red or white wines of La Rioja. However, production of red wine in the Rioja far outpaces that of white wine.
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