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120 years old, forging forward and still going strong; Bodegas Corral has an evocative story...

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Don Jacobo Rioja: 120th anniversary

Built on a pilgrim route known as Ruta Jacobea or ‘Way of St. James’, the estate showcases its history via the ruins of a hospice on the property called San Juan de Acre Pilgrims, which provided shelter and respite for those on their journey.

It was founded by Saturnino Daroca (a born and bred Riojano), who, on returning as a soldier from one of Spain’s civil Carlist Wars, decided on a relatively more sedate way of life and planted vineyards on his home property as well as purchasing a house and cellar in the nearby village from the local monastery.

Its present-day winery, located in Rioja Alta, is cool and contemporary, yet with an appreciative nod to the past with its vaulted cellars and a dining room which plays host to both tastings and cuisine events, with dishes sourced from local produce and graced by a warming, beautiful open fireplace; all surrounded by cabinets displaying the plethora of medals and trophies it has won over the years, including a recognition of the Don Jacobo Crianza being the red wine of choice at the Nobel Prize Awards Gala Dinner – the Nobel Night Cup – in Stockholm, in 2007

Its Don Jacobo line delivers all you could ask for from Rioja. Its crisp, fishfriendly, tropically-fruited, floral Viura is also perfect as an aperitif, while the white Tempranillo certainly stirs interest.

The refreshing rosado is an equal marriage of Garnacha and Tempranillo, showcasing delightful notes of red fruits and flowers.

Then you move up the scale with that Crianza, a Reserva and then the Gran Reserva – arguably its masterpiece – aged for over two years in cask, with graceful tannins but robust red fruit; it’s essentially tailor made for wildfowl, game, red meats and spicy red sauces.

Furthermore, within the range there is a 100% organic, pure Tempranillo; crafted to be enjoyed while its young and lively, with its breezy notes of black cherry, red berries and refreshing acidity; it’s a cracker with poultry and casseroles.

Corral’s best of the best is the duo of its Altos de Corral wines (both red) from Rioja Alta. Made from meticulously-selected fruit from 10ha of vineyards (where you can also take a horse-guided tour of the land) planted in the 1980s, these two make a fine pair.

The vineyards – in the sub-region of Navarrete – are a combination of clay, chalk and alluvial soils and are coated with large stones which ensure the vines need to work hard to gain the nutrients they need.

The plots reach up to 600m above sea level and this represents pushing to the limit the ability to grow vines here, but the combination of Mediterranean, Continental and Atlantic influences equals a unique microclimate which, while posing hazards, can in the strong vintages make these wines absolutely shine.

‘We respect the environment here, and no pesticides or herbicides are used,’ says CEO and Winemaker Carlos Rubio.

‘The meticulous work we have done has made it possible to improve and adapt the crops grown on each of our plots in line with their special features, and to harvest higher quality grapes from them over the years.’

The softly-textured Single Estate is aged for two years in pristine French wood and is 100% Tempranillo, marrying well with dishes such as suckling pig, roasted lamb, stews and robust cheeses.

Meanwhile, the Barrel Fermented – also pure Tempranillo – has taken a different route and is fermented and aged in American oak, matching finely with a variety of game and fully-flavoured meat dishes or indeed fish in sauce.

Essentially, together they provide a combination of the traditional way of ageing Rioja and the new wave, but neither are produced at less than the very top-notch of standards.

‘We always want to improve,’ says Carlos.

‘We are currently constructing a Château-style cellar on Altos de Corral, solely dedicated to making wines from the exact same property and are dedicated to specialising in producing mono-varietal wines including white Tempranillo, white Garnacha and Maturana. We specialise in high-end wines from unique vineyards which tell the story of that vineyard, but which also transmit the character of Rioja.’