Spain recently cracked the code – its wine production numbers surged last year (2013) to make it the world’s largest wine producer. It has officially surpassed second place Italy and (gasp) the French came in at paltry number three.
More than half of that wine was produced in central Castilla-La Mancha which boasts the most extreme climate of Spain with long, cold winters and extremely hot summers. It’s said to have nine months of winter and three months of ‘hell’.
This wine, on the other hand, hails from the north central region of Rioja, Spain’s leading and most renowned wine region. Named after the River (Rio) Oja that runs through the area, they’ve been making wine here since the time of the Romans and Moors. It’s well protected by the Cantabrian Mountains and there are three main zones – Rioja Alta, Rioja Alavesa and Rioja Baja – the first two boasting the best chalky limestone-clay soils.
There are 7 grapes generally allowed – for reds, Tempranillo, Garnacha, Mazuelo and Graciano and for whites, Viura (known as Macabeo or Macabeu everywhere else), Malvasia and Verdejo. Only 10% of Riojan wines are white and this one is a blend of 90% Viura with 10% Malvasia.
The Muga is joven or unaged and a shade of medium lemon with legs. On the nose it’s a developing wine with medium intensity and aromas of creme brûlée, lemon drop, hazelnut and almond with a light Sherry overtone.
The palate is dry with medium plus acidity and flavours of lemon zest and white grapefruit, white peach, more hazelnut and almond, light toast and a medium plus finish.
This wine is WSET Very Good; the fruit concentration is well balanced with strong acidity and not overwhelmed by the oak barrica treatment that offers a nutty hint and aroma of Sherry to the wine. Drink now or it is also suitable for ageing.
Photo credit, Mike Woods Photography