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Marques de Riscal ponders breakaway Rioja Reserva move with XR launch

Published:  12 September, 2019

Marques de Riscal has released its XR Rioja Reserva 2015, a wine which the Spanish producer said heralded its push for a new category of Reserva wines.

Marques de Riscal said the XR (Extra Reserva) wine was a “winemaker’s wine” named after the tradition of marking XR with chalk on barrels of wine which showed “special characteristics not present in other wines”.

The wine is made from specific plots of vines in Elciego in Rioja Alavesa.

The XR Reserva 2015 - a blend of Tempranillo (91%) and Graciano (9%) - was aged for 26 months in US barriques with between 10% and 15% of the wine aged in new barrels for six months.

Marques de Riscal told Harpers it was considering a move to break away from the Reserva category for Rioja wines.

It said the XR 2015 Reserva wine showed how the company was moving beyond Rioja’s legal ageing boundaries because it was aged longer than the three years required for Reserva wines.

“The question is should we now get out of the Reserva category?” said Marques de Riscal’s winemaker, Luis Hurtado de Amezaga Hamparzoumian.

“We are urging the Rioja DO to permit larger barrels to be used for ageing. Currently, the size of barrels is legally limited to 225 litre barrels, but we want to use bigger barrels in the second year of cask ageing,” De Amezaga Hamparzoumian said.

Marques de Riscal launched the worldwide release of the wine at the ‘Breaking the Rules’ presentation held at the Vintners Hall in London yesterday.

The event was organised by First Pour, a new UK wine agency run by Richard Morley.

In Britain, the wines will be distributed via Ellis Wine and Alexander Wines to restaurants and independent wines shops.

Marques de Riscal said that as from next year, XR wine labels would change to include the word Elciego as by then, the wine would be considered a ‘village’ wine.

Total production of the XR 2015 Reserva is 350,000 bottles.

The launch of the wines comes as Marques de Riscal is increasing organic production with 350ha of 500 ha of Rioja vines it uses, now certified organic.

“The biggest challenge in Rioja in the 21st century is convince growers to switch to organic production,” De Amezaga Hamparzoumian said.