Located in the Alavesa region of Rioja, Bodegas Faustino has been family owned and run for 150 years since it was bought by founding father Eleuterio Mertinez Arzok in 1861.
The Faustino legacy was started with the purchase of a manor house and adjoining vineyards in the Rioja municipality of Oyón where wine was made and sold directly from the barrel.
Shortly after, the estate like many others across Europe, was struck by the phylloxera epidemic that caused widespread destruction to the vineyards. Mass up-rooting of vines to remove the disease took place but with the help of his son Faustino Martinez Perez de Albeniz the vineyards were reconstructed, and the winery modernised, including the introduction of bottling their own wine for the first time.
The company continued to grow, with early bottlings have the names of the vineyards on including Campillo, Santana, Famar and Viña Parrita. In 1957 the third generation took over, and under the leadership of Julio Faustino Martinez Faustino was launched as an international brand and cemented its position as one of the largest export firms for reserve and grand reserve wines.
Faustino is the largest land owner in Rioja, with 650ha of vineyards in the Rioja DOC – primarily in the Rioja Alavesa and Rioja Alta regions spanning Laguardia, Logroño and Mendavia y Oyón, which accounts for 50% of all Faustino production and 100% of Faustino Gran Reserva and Reserva.
The company has incorporated environmentally-friendly grape growing practices – centralised around production of Tempranillo, Graciano, Mazuelo and Viura – to ensure vineyard sustainability as well as employing precision viticulture to monitor canopy development and control quality.
The winery itself can hold roughly 50,000 oak barrels and there is a permanent collection of nine million bottles resting in its cellars.
The company produces around 1.6 million cases of wine with roughly 50% consumed outside of Spain.
Faustino exports to more than 100 countries around the world with 70% accounted for by the European Union, and maintains the number one position worldwide both for making the world’s biggest selling Rioja Gran Reserva with Faustino I as well as more generally exporting the most DOCa Rioja Gran Reserva of any company – currently responsible for 34% of all Gran Reserva produced in Rioja.
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The wines of Bodegas Faustino are especially recognisable for their Burgundy-shaped frosted-glass bottles each labelled with a baroque portrait specific to the wine. Each wine is labelled Faustino followed by a Roman numeral indicating the level, the top level having the number I, the middle V and the entry level VII. They produce a range of reds whites and rosés in Crianza, Reserva or Gran Reserva styles as well as some limited edition, small production ranges.
The flagship Faustino I Gran Reserva carries Rembrandt’s 1641 portrait of Nicolaes Van Bambeek.
Faustino I is known as Primero – a premium wine only bottled in good vintages and is a rough blend of 80% Tempranillo with Graciano and Mazuelo. It is released for sale after a minimum of 25 months in French and American oak barrels plus at least three years in the bottle.
Faustino has a vast library collection of its Gran Reserva wines, dating back to the 1955 vintage, offering an impressive vertical selection straight from the cellar door. Library vintages include 1955, 1964, 1970, 1986, 1987, 1990, 1991, 2001, 2004 and the current vintage 2005. 2006 will be released in the first quarter of 2019.
Faustino’s other Rioja labels include a Crianza style, ‘V Reserva’ red – a blend of Tempranillo and Mazuelo and aged for 18 months in American oak barrels, ‘V’ white a blend of Viura and Chardonnay and V rosé. ‘VII’ is a 100% Tempranillo wine aged for 6 months in American oak barrels while the white is 100% Viura. Faustino also produces a wine that is made from 100% organic Tempranillo.
In 2018 Faustino launched a trio of new wines including Gran Faustino 1955. This special release features the 2,500 remaining bottles that were originally launched to the market in 1963 after eight years of ageing. The 55th anniversary was commemorated by a re-launch showcasing the wine in Rhine-style bottles, popular in La Rioja in the 1950s, that are tall and matt in texture and feature a vintage style black and gold label with lettering and watermarks that would have been traditionally used in the 50s.
Faustino Art Collection Willy Ramos Edition – seven wines including the V1, V2 and Crianza red wines plus a rosé and three Chardonnays. The collection is in tribute to one of Spain’s foremost artists and features Ramos’ re-imagined version of Faustino’s iconic label and portrait of Nicolas Van Bambeeck on the collection’s bottles.
Icon Reserva Especial – a handpicked wine from low yielding, 35-year-old bush vines at 500m above sea level before being aged in French wood for 18 months and a further two in bottle before being released.
Faustino also produces a range of sparkling wines from the Cava DO including the Brut Reserva to Semi Seco, Extra Seco and Rosado.
Under the direction of current leader, and fourth generation family member Don Julio Faustino Martinez, Faustino has expanded to become Grupo Faustino with over 250 employees and seven wineries spanning 2,000ha across key Spanish designations of origin. The company has focused on exploration and investment into lesser-known regions of Spain and brand acquisitions including Campillo and Marques de Vitoria in Rioja, Valcarlos in Navarra, Condesa de Leganza in La Mancha and Bodegas Portia in Ribera del Duero.
Tasting notes by John Stimpfig