Muga was founded in 1932 by Isaac Muga and his wife Aurora Caño. Both were from wine families: he from nearby Villalba, she the daughter of La Rioja Alta’s cellar-master Jorge Caño. The original winery was a modest affair in the heart of Haro as the initial idea was purely to vinify grapes from the family vineyards.

By the time Isaac Senior died, however, in 1969, the firm had grown so significantly that in 1972 his two sons, Isaac Junior and Manuel moved the bodega into the extensive network of premises of well-appointed and spacious centenary buildings that they still occupy over in the Barrio de la Estación, where their illustrious neighbours include Viña Tondonia/López de Heredia and La Rioja Alta.

Isaac was the winemaking side and Manuel the financial, and it is fascinating to see that their respective sons continue with circumspect harmony to exercise the same roles, with – on the one hand – Isaac the Third and his brother Jorge making the wines, and on the other – cousins Manu and Juan running the sales side and their brother Edu the global finances.

Today they own/control some 340 hectares within a 25 kilometre radius of Haro, continue to ferment everything in an assortment of differently sized oak vats – which, like their countless barriques, are made in-house – and remain among the few who also continue the age-old local tradition of clarifying/fining all their reds with fresh egg whites.

In addition to being a household name in Spain, they are present in over 60 export markets, making 10 different wines, and are famously strict in their precise annual allocations for each market given that only quality will do. This essentially means that production of any given style can and does vary enormously, and in years considered not up to the mark, rather than prejudicing their name, they simply sell the wine that they have made to others – in bulk; and certain styles therefore drop out of sight until the next decent vintage.

Oh to be a fly on the wall, when each March at the biggest and best Wine Fair in the world – Prowein, in Düsseldorf – they get together with their worldwide distributors to announce how much or little each will be allowed for the coming year!

Indulge therefore in whatever you can find of their following current offerings:

FIZZ (Conde de Haro 2016 – 12%)

A traditional method blend of 90% Viura and 10% Malvasía from vineyards at around 600 metres in Villalba, this is very lightly pressed, ferments in 1,000 litre oak vats where it stays for around six months to then undergo its second fermentation in bottle and rest for between nine and 14 months prior to release. Sheeny pale yellowy green, this is bone dry, with marked acidity, lean, incisive, and clean as a whistle.

WHITE (Muga Blanco 2017 – 13.5%)

Similar blend to the above but with a smidgeon of Garnacha Blanca; again fermented in oak, but this time in 3,000-litre vats, followed by three to four months on its fine lees with weekly bâtonnage/stirring. Pale yellow with yeasty overtones; very dry, spare, tight and concise.

Initially citric and minerally, after 15 minutes reveals most attractive floral and slightly honeyed elements. Obviously made by the same winemaker as above (Isaac the Third), this is for those who might normally opt for Chablis but would rather not pay the price. Production here is in the realms of 100,000 bottles+

ROSÉ (Flor de Muga 2017 – 13.5%)

Made from free run old vine Garnacha, this is a beautifully pale limited production offering ever so delicate red fruits and is again tight, incisive, very dry, concise and spare. Partner with sushi or sashimi.

REDS (Muga Selección Especial 2014 – 14%)

Late picked Tempranillo (70%), Garnacha (20%) and some 10% mixed Graciano and Mazuelo is aged for 28 months in used French oak to then rest in bottle for a year prior to release. Intensely purple in hue, this is coconut tinged (the oak), austere, has great acidity and a seething dark plum underneath. Opens up nicely after 10 or 15 minutes to reveal more than a touch of incense.

Awesome and made only in special years, it is by and large Jorge who makes the reds.

Muga Prado Enea Gran Reserva (2010 – 14%)

This is my absolute fave: made from late harvested grapes (Tempranillo 70%, Garnacha 20%, and some 10% mixed Graciano and Mazuelo ) to ensure ripeness; fermented in 10,000 kilo oak vats with no temperature control and on the basis of wild yeasts. It spends 4 years in a selection of oaks and then three years in bottle.

Lush garnet ruby in colour with pervasive red plum and ripe strawberry fruits, lovely texture and mega fine; though the tannins are still relatively fierce, the oak elements are very subtle.

When made (there was neither 2012 nor 2013), production amounted to some 20,000 bottles and for me this represents semi traditional Rioja at its absolute best – in the sense that it’s already semi mature by the time it’s released but will go on for much longer.

The winery currently recommends that it’s the 2001 vintage that we should be enjoying, and if you’re lucky enough to track this down, it will be so mature that it’ll pretty much be something to relish on the basis of not decanting and in around 20 minutes.

Torre Muga (2015 – 14.5%)

This is another top cuvée also made from late picked, seriously ripe grapes – 75% Tempranillo, 15% Mazuelo and 10% Graciano.

Appreciably more modern, this is a style that appeals to the Robert Parker school of thought – ie. monster colour, effusive purple fruit flavours and lashings of new oak.

Fermented, largely as above, but with longer maceration in order to achieve more colour and fruit, this only spends two years in oak, though 18 months of these are in new French. Accordingly monster deep violet in colour, with unctuous inky fruit and big, high toast oak flavours.

Exult now in this hurricane or if you like your wine tamer, cellar it for a while.


The birthplace and spiritual capital of Rioja as of the late 19th Century, but dating back to around 1040 and on the fringe of the spectacular Ebro River, this charming old town of around 12,000 inhabitants is a 90-minute drive due south from Bilbao and ideal for a gourmet/gourmand weekend.

Stay at the august and super atmospheric Hotel los Agustinos.

Eat at either Terete or Beethoven.

And – for a bit of history and local colour – visit the charming Santo Tomás Parish Church & Museo del Torreón. Be warned that parking is a nightmare. Multiple winery visits and tours abound but be sure to book well ahead.