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Marques de Murrieta €20m rebuild nears completion

Marques de Murrieta, one of Spain's most renowned estates, is completing a €20m renovation project that has involved tearing down and rebuilding the entire bodega.

Vicente Cebrian-Sagarriga, the current owner of the 160-year-old Rioja Alta bodega, is nearing the end of a 15-year project, he told Decanter.com.

‘We have taken the buildings down to their foundations,’ he said.

When he took over Marques de Murrieta in 1996 at the age of 25, after the sudden death of his father, Cebrian said that he began ‘a different dialogue’ with the estate.

‘I always wanted to combine tradition with modernity and youth. There would be a new team, new wines, and a new era at Murrieta.’

He stressed, however, that the focus has always been on defining the style of the wine, increasing quality but ‘always trying to maintain its identity’.

The original Castillo Ygay, the centrepiece of the estate in the middle of the historic Ygay vineyards, and its attendant buildings have been entirely reconstructed under the auspices of architect Luis Galliusi.

There are new tasting rooms, a museum, a dining room with a kitchen ‘identical to the one at El Bulli’, Cebrian said, new cellars, a 70,000-bottle library of Murrieta vintages going back to 1852, and a shop with Enomatic machines for tasting.

‘The only room that has not been changed is the original 1852 bottle cellar,’ Cebrian said.

The main buildings are expected to be completed in spring 2012, at which stage work will start on a new 1.5m kg capacity winery with 15 oak fermenters, and new ageing cellars with capacity for 10,000 barrels and 4m bottles.

Most extraordinary of all is the fact that all the buildings and pathways have been constructed from freshly quarried sandstone, hand cut and distressed to give an antique look, by a team of Galician stonemasons working on site.

The stone represents some 20% of the cost of the project, Cebrian said.

The 300ha Ygay estate – which gives its name to the bodega’s most celebrated wine, Castillo Ygay – is the biggest single estate in Rioja. Eighty percent is planted to Tempranillo, with Garnacha, Graciano, Mazuelo and Viura, and a tiny proportion of Cabernet Sauvignon.

Production, which stands at 1.6m bottles, will not increase.

Murrieta, under long-standing winemaker Maria Vargas, produces Marques de Murrieta Reserva, which retails at around £15, Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva Especial, of which the current vintage is the 2004, at £35 and the Dalmau, which contains a proportion of Cabernet Sauvignon and retails for around £50.

There are also two whites, the Capellania Reserva, and an Albariño, Pazo Barrantes, from the Cebrian family estate in Rias Baixas, Galicia.

Written by Adam Lechmere

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