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Bodegas Montecillo: Celebrating 150 years

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Founded in 1870, Bodegas Montecillo has a long tradition of crafting ageworthy Riojas, using modern techniques that respect its heritage - and its award-winning anniversary releases are no exception

Commemorating its 150th anniversary in 2020, Bodegas Montecillo is the first and oldest winery of Fuenmayor, and the third oldest in Rioja. It was founded by Don Celestino Navajas Matute in 1870, taking its name from the unique topography of Fuenmayor, his Rioja Alta hometown.

Don Celestino began this wine adventure when inherited his mother-in- law’s vineyards. But it was his son Alejandro who continued it, with the wisdom of a visionary. He built an empire, with an entrepreneurial spirit that underpinned all of his endeavours. Alejandro established a hydroelectric power plant in Buicio, providing energy to Laguardia, Cenicero and Fuenmayor. He launched Nemrod Company to handle dynamite transportation across the entire peninsula and founded his own shipping line with five freighters.

Nevertheless, Alejandro’s heart remained in the vineyards. He managed the winery, with his brother Gregorio, from 1896 onwards. Together they bought a rural property, El Montecillo, that gave its name to the winery and the most important ship in their fleet.

Jose Luis Navajas

José Luis Navajas, former winemaker and 3rd generation

The next chapter in the winery’s story begins with José Luis, grandson [of Don Celestino?]. After studying oenology in Burgundy, he took Montecillo’s wines to the next level in terms of quality. He introduced innovative techniques such as cold fermentation and created the iconic Viña Monty wines.

In 1973, with no heirs to carry on the family legacy. José Luis entrusted Montecillo to the Osborne family, which also had over a hundred years of winemaking culture. They have strengthened the virtues behind the Montecillo name: high quality, tradition, knowledge and innovation. They opened a new winery in Naverrete in 1975, to produce long-aged wines, an emblem of the Bodegas Montecillo brand.

Throughout its history, Montecillo has pursued excellence. From early innovations, such as the introduction of cold vinification in the 1940s, to modern investments in flex tanks, small vats, barrels and manual bottle cellars, the winery has pushed itself to achieve a perfect fusion between tradition and modernity.

Today Montecillo’s winemaking philosophy is guided by chief winemaker Mercedes García Rupérez, who has taken on the responsibility of updating the bodega’s wines without ever losing their essence, tradition or roots. As the custodian of vintages dating back to 1926 in the winery’s cellars, she is aware of the time and effort needed to create wines with such longevity. That’s why all of Montecillo’s wines are aged in barrels and bottles for longer than the Rioja Regulatory Council stipulations. It’s also why any new cuvees must be created in a way that reflects Montecillo’s signature style.

Bodegas Montecillo sign

Anniversary wines

This was front of mind for García Rupérez when she was tasked with curating a selection of wines to celebrate Montecillo’s 150th anniversary year. These included the launch of collection of 3 Reservas under legendary Viña Monty label and the release of the last remaining magnum bottles of Montecillo’s award-winning Viña Monty Gran Reserva 1975 vintage.

Using grapes chosen from six prime plots from across Rioja Alta and Rioja Oriental, the new Viña Monty collection stays true to the winemaking philosophy and style of the original Burgundy-style bottlings. This limited-release comprises: Viña Monty Reserva Graciano 2015, Viña Monty Reserva Garnacha 2015 and Viña Monty White Reserva Viura-Tempranillo Blanco 2016.

Vina Monty collection

Finally, in response to international demand for gran reservas from Rioja, García Rupérez crafted the Bodegas Montecillo 150 Aniversario Selección Especial Gran Reserva 2005 (see box). From a vintage classified as ‘Excellent’, this wine showcases Montecillo’s reputation for long-lived wines and is testament to the skill of García Rupérez. No wonder it was awarded 92 points in the Decanter World Wine Awards 2020.

These 150th anniversary releases are a fitting testament to the legacy of Don Celestino – a legacy that will be carried forward into the future by bottles that are even now resting safely in Montecillo’s cellars.

Montecillo wines

Bodegas Montecillo 150 Aniversario Gran Reserva 2005 Selección Especial – 92 points

A blend of Tempranillo, Graciano and Maturana Tinta grapes from a traditional mixed vineyard. Fermented with continuous pumping over and maceration on skins for two weeks. Aged for over five years in French oak, then at least another nine years in bottle, creating a wine with aromatic intensity and significant complexity. The harmonious palate is creamy and robust, with a silky texture and a distinctive, lingering finish. Only 2,798 bottles crafted.

Bodegas Montecillo 22 Barrels Gran Reserva 2011 – 94 points

Tempranillo, Graciano, Garnacha and Mazuelo are sourced from parcels of old vines in Fuenmayor, Navarrete, Medrano and Huércanos. The different varieties are vinified separately and aged in French oak before blending: the final wine harmonises during long bottle ageing for at least 48 months. Aromatic, lively and intense nose; the palate is silky with elegant tannins, good acidity and fleshy fruit.

Bodegas Montecillo Gran Reserva 2011 – 91 points

This classic gran reserva is mostly Tempranillo with 8% Graciano. Aged in French and American oak for 28 months, with a further four years in bottle. The palate shows great finesse, with well-polished tannins and good acidity that persists through the long finish.

Bodegas Montecillo Vina Monty Graciano Reserva 2015 – 92 points

A firm and silky red wine with graphite, lead and darkberry character and just a hint of walnut shell. Medium-bo-died. Lovely fruit in the centre palate with a long finish.

Bodegas Montecillo Reserva 2013

A blend of 90% Tempranillo, with Mazuelo and Garnacha, harvested and vinified separately, then aged in French and American oak for 24 months, with a further 24 months in bottle after blending. An elegant and lively palate, with balanced acidity, mature tannins and a long, red-fruited finish. Included in the 25th position TOP 100 wines of 2020 by Wine Spectator.

Bodegas Montecillo Crianza 2017

A blend of Tempranillo (87%) from Rioja Alta and Garnacha from Rioja Oriental, harvested, vinified and aged separately, with six months in bottle before release. Rounded palate with balanced tannins, notes of ripe red fruit and a long finish.

For more information visit: www.bodegasmontecillo.com

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