Bodegas Montecillo: 150 Years of History and the Relaunch of Viña Monty
The third oldest winery in Rioja, Montecillo celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2020 with the relaunch of one of its most iconic brands – Viña Monty – a wine that helped raise the profile of Rioja wines by winning a blind tasting against Bordeaux châteaux in the 1970s.
Bodegas Montecillo's iconic Viña Monty brand was re-launched earlier this year to mark the 150th anniversary of the winery, the third oldest in Rioja. The brand achieved international fame when Viña Monty Gran Reserva 1975 took first place in a blind tasting in Amsterdam in 1983, beating great Bordeaux wines including Château Leoville Las Cases and Château La Tour du Pin Figeac. 120 bottles of the legendary 1975 vintage have been released as part of the celebrations.
The current Viña Monty range is a project led by winemaker Mercedes García Rupérez, using the latest expertise to redefine these classic wines. After an extensive eight year study to find the best vineyards for each variety, the winery has launched a collection of single varietal Reserva wines: a white Viura-Tempranillo Blanco, a Garnacha and a Graciano.
Viña Monty White Reserva 2016
Viña Monty White Reserva 2016 is made from 90% Viura grapes, which, in theory, are not very aromatic. However, in this case, by selecting old vines grown at 650m altitude on stony ground, the grapes are more concentrated in flavour, making a white wine suitable for ageing for 16 months in new French oak and a further 14 months in bottle. 10% Tempranillo Blanco adds floral aromas and liveliness, creating a complex and versatile wine for food pairing.
Viña Monty Garnacha Reserva 2015
To create a balanced wine, this 100% Garnacha is blended from two parcels. The first is located in Rioja Alta, with vines of more than 90 years of age at 542m, giving elegance and finesse, and the second, a sunnier parcel in Rioja Oriental, giving deeper colour and more alcohol. It spent 26 months in French and American oak barrels. As well as several 91 and 92 point scores, Viña Monty Garnacha Reserva 2015 was named wine of the fortnight by one of the largest online food and wine communities in Europe – Verema – with 93 points.
Viña Monty Graciano Reserva 2015
Viña Monty Reserva Graciano 2015 was chosen to show the potential of the grape variety by the UK’s most prestigious wine magazine, Decanter, with writer David Williams classing it as “highly recommended” and giving a score of 92 points. He described it as a wine made "with grapes from two vineyards, one in the Rioja Oriental area with a Mediterranean climate and another at 440 metres altitude in the Rioja Alta. This is a wine that offers very pure and intense notes of black fruit (blackberries and black cherries) with touches of black olive, refreshing acidity and marked yet perfectly polished tannins."
Anniversary Celebrations in Montecillo
Although the circumstances of 2020 limited the hosting of events, Bodegas Montecillo used the latest technology to ensure that its 150th anniversary was celebrated safely. Creative solutions include a series of videos to relate the story of Viña Monty, which can be found on the winery’s YouTube channel, and the history of the winery told via Instagram.
Informative stories tell of the business pursuits of the Navajas family, who as well as setting up the winery in 1870 and studying in Bordeaux, Penedès and Burgundy, were involved in the shipping of dynamite – with their El Montecillo ship taking a prominent role in the Civil War – and hydroelectric power. Alejandro Navajas and his son José Luis also opened the first cinema in their home town of Fuenmayor, designed by one of Spain’s most famous architects, who was also behind the Palacio de Correos in Bilbao as well as Madrid’s Nuevos Ministerios.
International Expansion for Montecillo wines
The winery’s sale in 1973 to another of Spain’s great winemaking dynasties – the Osborne family – marked a new chapter. Bodegas Montecillo is now sold all over the world, with strategic markets in the USA, Canada, the UK, Germany, Switzerland and China, where it is sold through prestige channels – such as the on-trade, wine retailers and in travel retail.
The new Viña Monty brand was launched in the UK earlier this year, with a preview tasting hosted by Mercedes Garcia at the Decanter Fine Wine Encounter in November 2019.
Laurie Webster of UK exporters, Las Bodegas, said that, “Although it is very early days and it has been a strange year, reception to Viña Monty has been good. Although opportunities have been limited for the face-to-face tastings that are needed to sell wines like these, Hedonism - a fine wine boutique in Mayfair – is listing the Graciano and The Good Wine Shop with four stores across London is also a great customer for Montecillo wines.”
Laurie says that she sees Montecillo as offering a special level of quality compared to other Rioja brands, “If Montecillo continues to be selective in its growth strategy, it will do very well long-term. There’s a great story behind the brand, a great winemaker, and strong packaging and marketing.”
Here’s to the next 150 years!
Text: Anna Harris-Noble