Marqués de Riscal and their masterpiece wine city
Read for you by Donatella Cinelli Colombini
Marqués de Riscal, for those who like me adore great wines and contemporary architecture is a name that is a myth. The wine city –hotel, restaurant and museum- designed by Frank Gehry next to their winery is one of the absolute masterpieces of the 20th century. Bolder than the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao and the Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, bolder because it’s varicoloured titanium volutes disturb the old peace of Rioja, its vineyards, the old villages with cathedral and bell tower, the stone walls and the curvy roads. Like light in the darkness, like something new arriving in the old countryside, wonderful!
For this reason the article by Tim Atkin Master of Wine published in Wine Searcher has attracted my attention. It is entitled <<The 10 things that every wine lover should know about Marqués de Riscal>>
Some are known others are not. The Marqués de Riscal’s were among the pioneers of the wine re birth of the Rioja region in the second half of the Nineteenth century. They brought to this territory the wine culture that they had acquired in Bordeauxat the beginning of the century when they had been voluntary exiles as free thinkers: grape varieties. Small barrels and even a French wine maker Jean Pineau. Still today the wine maker comes from and is first class, Paul Pontallier the magician who signs the bottles labelled Château Margaux.
Like many precious bottles from the Rioja region those from the Riscal winery are shut in a metal crate. What many do not know is that this network was born as a system of “anti-forgery” so as to stop the substituting wine. And I thought that it was just an marketing action to distinguish itself from the other!
Now lets talk about architecture. The less famous thing is that another important historic architect of the Marqués de Riscal’s, Riccardo Bellsola. But it has been the arrival of the greatest living architect, he who has de-structured the
constructions transforming them into gigantic sculptures, Frank Gehry, who has transformed their hotel with a Michelin starred restaurant, spa and Museum into a touristic attraction with 75.000 visitors per year. Deservingly Gehry has a selection of Riscal wine dedicated to himself.
The Marqués de Riscal estate is very large: 500 hectares of owned vineyard and grapes bought even from distant regions. The Riscal revolution has touched other zones too of the Marqués de Riscal and their masterpiece of a wine city.
Spain like the one north of Madrid, where, with the help of the father of modern wine making the myth Émile Peynaud, they have created a new generation of white wines with the appellation Rueda. Great merit must go to a descendant of the pioneer, a wine maker who is decidedly charming in his aspect and has an adventurous instinct Luis Hurtado de Amézaga also known as Paco.
The Riscal winery’s fame depends especially on its Rioja Riserva of which, each year, 3 to 4,5 million bottles get produced. The curious news is that this wine, which has recently increased in quality and harmony, ages in American oak casks. For those who love with so much passion the “Medoc style” as they do, this is really surprising.
Tim Atkin concludes his amusing article, which I invite you to read, also because of the really pungent comments, which reveal that Marqués de Riscal is getting ready to build a new cellar. And here is where my curiosity is unleashed: who will the architect be? The most probable name is Frank Gehry because of the precedent, but that would not be a news. I would exclude Santiago
Calatrava the most famous and celebrated of the Spanish architects as he has designed the La Bodega Ysios still in the Rioja region. The winery is beautiful but the owners Pernod-Ricard have sued the designer. Here is something which recalls the famous bridge in Venice signed Calatrava, where the pedestrians slip and end up in hospital. In the case of the winery its the roof that is
wrong, piece keep falling, regarding the constant maintenance which in the end has meant spending 2 million Euro.
May I give the Marqués de Riscal a suggestion: the “Wine city” is an icon, a symbol of modernity and beauty. That’s enough the new cellar must not flood the stage with another masterpiece .Try going to the Louvre in the Salle des États and se how many tourists
admire the piece next to the Mona Lisa by Leonardo. Nobody! The masterpiece must stand alone, it is right and it is convenient because whatever you put next to it will not be looked at so consequently it is useless to invest in a second masterpiece. The directors of the Louvre ,even though after one century , have realized this.
And finally do you want to know how much it costs to sleep in the fabulous Marqués de Riscal hotel? 350€ in a double room.