Bodegas Martinez Corta’s 2011 Cepas Antiguas Rioja constitutes one of the best values in Rioja wine. Cepas Antiguas spends time in new French oak and is imbued with everything it needs to succeed in life, including a bright ruby robe, a soft seductive aroma, and plenty of red and black fruit flavors. In Cepas Antiguas, soft savory blueberry, cassis, and plum flavors mingle with subtle hints of cinnamon and clove to entice the palate. Each sip engages the taster and reveals another facet to Cepas Antiguas. However, we suggest you not be in a hurry to consume this wine or you will miss the best that it and Rioja have to offer. Typical of fine Rioja, the youthful 2011 Cepas Antiguas requires aeration to fully release its attributes, even though it is not very tannic. For optimum enjoyment, we suggest affording the 2011 Martinez Corta Cepas Antiguas at least half an hour to breathe, preferably in a decanter, before savoring it at cool temperature (60º - 65°F).
Many food and wine critics and more than a few self proclaimed connoisseurs extol the virtues of beef in the company of Rioja, and, indeed, steaks and filets offer excellent accompaniments to the 2011 Martinez Corta Cepas Antiguas. However, lamb and pork dishes provide equally compelling companions to this Rioja. Grilled pork kebobs in particular get our nod. But that’s not all. Another perennial favorite with Rioja is a simple rotisserie roasted chicken, basted with Mediterranean herbs, butter, olive oil, and garlic. We also like pairing the 2011 Cepas Antiguas with a Valencia style of paella made with shrimp, chicken, and sausage. The complex flavors in the paella bring out the savory notes and subtle complexities in the wine. 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 bright fruit flavors of the 2011 Cepas Antiguas. Enjoy!
Rioja is a must stop for any lover of Spanish wine, but what makes the journey truly special is meeting families such as the Martinez 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 Martinez Corta family, followed by a splendid lunch at the bodega in which the entire family was in attendance. What followed was an exceptionally detailed tour of the bodega’s vineyards and Martinez Corta’s new, squeaky clean winery. Yet, what was 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 Martinez 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 Martinez 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. Martinez 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. Indeed, Rioja is a special land, etched by history and endowed by a special wine, also known as Rioja, that is 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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