Rioja Bodegas de la Marquesa, Valserrano

5th generation family winemakers, the de Simón family have been in Valserrano – the heartland of Rioja Alavesa – since the mid-19th Century. Pablo, Jaime and María are gradually easing their father – Juan Pablo – into retirement and taking over the running of the Bodegas.

Vineyards and Vinification

The family’s vineyards stretch for 65 hectares, sitting between 400 and 1,200 metres above sea level, giving an extra level of freshness and lift to the fruit. Committed to maintaining their oldest vines, as well as planting new, the average age of their vines is over 30 years old. Alongside the principal player that is Tempranillo, other varieties to be found include Mazuelo, Garnacha, Graciano and Viura, as well as some Chardonnay and Maturana Tinta. 

The family are lucky enough to still be using the original underground cellars, which are over 200 years old. The constant temperature of these stone cellars means perfect conditions for maturing and storing their wines; this means several years for their Reserva and Gran Reserva wines before they are released onto the market.

White Rioja is undergoing something of a renaissance with new-wave winemakers successfully combining the freshness of Viura (aka Ugni Blanc or, rather more poetically, Queue de Rénard – Fox’s Tail) with sparse amounts of new oak. Pablo de Simón’s version is vibrantly fresh, with lemony fruit and just a kiss of new oak on the palate; a satisfyingly complete wine. The Gran Reserva category of white Rioja is a different ball game entirely and the very best producers combine their fruit with oak and gently oxidation to great effect; Bodegas de la Marquesa’s Valserrano is stunning, with the weight of a great white Burgundy and the spectrum of flavours from Viura and Malvasia – marzipan, white flowers, citrus and buttery notes – offering fabulous value for money compared to its French counterparts.

The reds are not likely to disappoint either. The Crianza spends 16 months in a mix of French and American oak, which lends a delicious spice to the brambly black fruits, rich with just the right amount of structure behind. Rioja Reserva must spend a minimum of three years aging prior to release, of which at least one must be in barrel. Valserrano use a mix of American and French oak, the American giving an instant toasty, oaky lift whilst the French is more restrained and allows the wine to develop more slowly. The result is sheer hedonism with rich black cherry fruits, toasty and spiced, with a delicious backbone of cool black fruits, making it the perfect foil for hearty meat dishes.

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