Category Archives: Bodegas Franco-Espanola

The Spanish-French Connection in Rioja


The word Bordón means a pilgrims’ walking stick, exclaimed John Perry, Export Area Manager for the Bodegas Franco-Española winery in Rioja. He explained that during the Middle Ages, one of the most popular destinations for Christian pilgrims was Santiago de Compostela and the shrine of St. James the Great, one of Christ’s apostles. The main route to the shrine went right through what is now the property of the Bodegas so their red wines were called Bordón in honor of the pilgrims who followed this route.

John Perry

John Perry

John led us through a tasting of the wines of the Bodegas Franco-Española and told us that the winery was founded in 1890 after phylloxera devastated the French vineyards and many French producers moved to Spain. In 1890 Frederick Anglade Saurat, of the Bordeaux firm Anglade, founded— along with other Spanish partners–Bodegas Franco-Españolas. By 1922, Bodegas Franco-Españolas, which translates in English as French Spanish Wineries, became entirely Spanish owned. Carlos and Rosa Eguizabal now own the winery and the third generation of the Eguizabal family currently manages the winery.

The winery is located in a long valley in the Northern- Central part of Spain.  Bodegas Franco-Españolas’ wine has a very special microclimate defined by two mountain chains, north and south, and the Ebro River, that crosses it from west to east. Bodegas Franco-Españolas farms more than 200 acres of vineyards and also collaborates with farmers with whom they have had long-term relationships.

The wines are a great bargain with one of the best price-to-quality ratios I have ever seen from any producer.IMG_2849White Rioja “Diamante” 2011 the grapes are destemmed and put into stainless steel tanks. Skin contact takes place for 14 hours at a low temperature then the juice is separated from the solids and fermented separately.  Fermentation is stopped by lowering the temperature so that the natural sugars are maintained, one of the characteristics of this wine.  The nose is slightly floral with highlights of the ripe fruit. The palate is smooth and creamy with a touch of sweetness. $12

John pointed out that in the beginning Rioja meant white wine and there was a high tax on it. Producers added red wine (tinto) to make a blush wine to avoid the tax and this is how red wine developed in Rioja. John said the Spanish word for this is clarete. In the beginning producers were using native Spanish red grapes and using Bordeaux production methods. With a high tax on white wine and producers from France coming into the Rioja region, it is no wonder Rioja is now known for its red wines.
John said that phylloxera did not attack the Spanish vineyards until 1920.IMG_2851
Rioja “Royal” Bordón 2010 The wine is made from 80% Tempranillo, and 20% Garnacha. Seventy-five percent of the grapes are destemmed and fermented in the traditional method and 25% by carbonic maceration, which allows for a fruiter wine.  After this the wine rests in white American oak from Ohio for 6 monthd. Every six months the wine is racked and then put back into the barrels. It is then aged in American oak barrels for 5 months.  There are fruity aromas of red berries with spicy notes. This is a very easy wine to drink. $10IMG_2854Rioja Crianza Bordón 2008, made from 80% Tempranillo, and 20% Garnacha
After the selection of the fruit a soft crushing of the berries takes place. When the alcoholic fermentation and the malolactic fermentation are finished the wine goes into American white oak (Ohio) medium toasted. The wine remains in barrels for twelve months and every six months there is the traditional racking barrel to barrel. It is then aged for 15 months in American oak followed by a minimum of 15 months in bottle before release. The wine has aromas and flavors of raspberry and plum with a hint of oak. $13IMG_2853
Rioja Bordón Reserva 2007 made from 80% Tempranillo, 15% Garnacha and 5% Mazuelo.
After the selection of the fruit, there is a soft crushing of the berries. After completion of the alcoholic fermentation and the malolactic fermentation, the wine is put into American white oak (Ohio and Missouri) with a light to medium toast. The wine remains in barrels for 18 months and every six months there is the traditional racking barrel to barrel and then 2 years in bottle before release.  It has nice red fruit, sweet spices and a hint of toffee.  $15

John said that they age all of their wines longer than legally required – both in barrel and in bottle. All barrel aging is done in American oak. He said that Rioja was always aged in American oak and that they had to be 225 liter barrels. Crianza must age 1 year in oak. Reserva must age 2 years and I year must be in oak and the Grand Reserva must age 2 years in oak and three years in the bottle.

Rioja Grand Riserva Bordón 2004 made from  80% Tempranillo, 10% Garnacha, 5% Mazuelo, 5% Graciano.  The wine is aged in American white oak barrels for three years and the maturation continues for an additional three years in the bottle. The Gran Reserva is released only in excellent vintages and only when the desired bouquet and character is fully evident. It is a complex wine with aromas of plum and spice.  On the palate, flavors of mushroom, raspberry and black pepper with hints of spices and pomegranate. 2004 was an excellent vintage and this is a wine that can age. $25

When the tasting was over John added that the Bodegas Franco-Españolas’ motto is “Quality and Honesty” and that the winery strives to uphold the traditional production of certified-origin Rioja wines and continues to seek the utmost quality in winemaking.


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