¡Olé! – Tasting through 50 years of Bodegas Faustino wines! 

One of the things that first drew me to the world of wine is the story that is told through the label on a wine bottle. There’s your classic old world label, weaving a story of the wine’s origin and history. You have new world labels with their playful names and cartoonish images. Then there are the labels adorned with an artistic flair, designed to catch the eye of the passer-by.

Then there’s the example of Bodegas Faustino Gran Reserva, which attempts to straddle those lines. With its rough texture, gold netting, and its iconic image of the classic pilgrim front & center on the label, it’s definitely attempting to tell a story.

This past Tuesday, I was fortunate to attend a library tasting of Bodegas Faustino and receive a first-hand account of this story. The tasting was presented by Select Wines in conjunction with Co-op Wine Spirits Beer.

As an added bonus, attendees were lucky enough to have the tasting narrated by Carmen Oros-Romeo, export manager for Bodegas Faustino.

The history Bodegas Faustino

The history of the winery begins in 1861, with the purchase of the vineyard by Eleuterio Martínez Arzok. For the next 90 years, the winery operates as a seller of bulk grapes until 1930 when it moves over to producing its own bottled wine.

1960 saw the winery begin its first exploration of international expansion, with exports to Austria. Four years later in 1964, the first vintage of its Bodegas Faustino Gran Reserva is released. Since then it has become one of the most widely exported wines in the world.

In 2011 the winery celebrated it’s 150 birthday and today continues to be one of the largest vineyard owners in the Rioja region, with almost 650 Hectares of vineyards.

Since its beginning the winery has been built on a principle of love and respect for nature, emphasizing new environmental practices to ensure the vineyards sustainability.

Library Tasting

We began our evening with a wonderful display of Flamenco dancing while savoring a glass of Cava Faustino Rosado.

Carmen then walked us through a brief history of the winery, highlighting its production methods, commitment to the environment and a rather impressive cellar. From there it was time to move on to the tasting portion.

wine tasting
Bodegas Faustino Library Tasting

Faustino VII Red (2012)

Varietal: 100% Tempranillo
Aging: 6 months in American Oak barrels

VII Bottle

Our first offering of the evening, the 100% Tempranillo Faustino VII red. This is an easy drinking, laid back offering, that could be just as easily enjoyed sitting on the back deck as at the dinner table.

A very soft and velvety mouthfeel with just a slight hint of tannins is enough to balance out the mouth-watering acidity. There’s a burst of flavor upfront but doesn’t linger long.

This wine is all fruit on both the nose and the palate. Big bold notes of ripe red fruit, such as raspberry, cranberry, strawberry, and red plum.

Faustino V Red Reserva (2011)

Varietal: Tempranillo, Mazuelo
Aging: 18 months in Americal Oak, 18 months in bottle.

V Bottle

Up next is the is the 2011 Faustino V Reserva, one level up from the Faustino VII. A blend of Tempranillo and Mazuelo, it showed slightly more maturity most likely due to extended aging.

In the glass, it shines with a beautiful vibrant ruby color which slightly betrays the fuller bodied nature of this wine. In comparison to the Faustino VII, the V Reserva offers just a bit more body, structure, texture, and weight. The acid levels are very similar, not quite mouthwatering but enough not to instantly dry out the mouth.

There is also a big presence of ripe red fruit on this wine but there’s just the slightest herbal hint which provides a nice balance. Definitely coming through are notes of cranberry, and raspberry but lurking in the background are whispers of basil & thyme.

Faustino I Gran Reserva (2005)

Varietal: Tempranillo, Graciano, Mazuelo
Aging: 28 months in French and American Oak

2005 bottle

Moving into the Gran Reserva’s our first sample is the 2005 vintage. A very complex wine that still shows lots of room for aging but is easily drinkable right now.

We’re still seeing mostly shades of ruby in the glass but there is definitely some deeper tones starting to develop. With that developing color comes more development within the body. There’s definitely structure and heft to the wine, with a stronger flavor intensity and a long finish. The tannins are much more pronounced and actually made discerning the acid level difficult. There was seemingly a battle for dominance between the acid and tannins in the wine.

Red fruit still shows strongly on the nose and palate but it’s starting to move from the ripe red fruit to more of a subtle dried fruit, with notes of dried cherry and cranberry. Starting to be more pronounced are notes of cedar, tobacco, and allspice.

Faustino I Gran Reserva (1994)

Varietal: Tempranillo, Graciano, Mazuelo
Aging: 28 months in French and American Oak

1994 bottle

Jumping just over twenty years back in time, we moved onto the 1994 vintage. Now we’re starting to really get into the conversation of whether to drink now or continue to cellar.

You really started to notice the color change with this wine with garnet shades becoming the more dominant color with just slight tinges of ruby. There’s definitely no battle between acid and tannins in this wine. The tannins are just super soft and silky and there’s still a biting acidity to the wine that just makes it so easy to drink.

Structurally speaking, the wine is still got some heft to it, and the intensity and finish stick with you for what seems like forever. On the nose, it’s all tertiary characteristics, with aromas of leather, smoke, cedar, tobacco, and baking spices.

Similiar characteristics carry forward to the palate, notes of cinnamon, allspice, cigar, & fig.

Faustino I Gran Reserva (1990)

Varietal: Tempranillo, Graciano, Mazuelo
Aging: 29 months in French and American Oak

1990 bottle

Still, in the 1990’s we went back another 4 years to the 1990 vintage. It’s amazing what a difference only 4 years can make to a wine. Any hint of ruby is gone and we’re squarely in the garnet range in terms of color.

Similar to the 94, the tannins are just so soft and well integrated, with still mouth pleasing acidity levels. The body is starting to soften and become just a little lighter in texture but there’s still enough weight to pair well with food.

The nose on this wine was so elegant with pleasing aromas of clove, cedar, fig, dried cherry, & leather. A little surprising on the palate was a slight peppery taste that I wasn’t expecting but didn’t seem out of place.

Faustino I Gran Reserva (1970)

Varietal: Tempranillo, Graciano, Mazuelo
Aging: 30 months in French and American Oak

1970 bottle

We’re now at a point where I’ve never been before, having never tasted a vintage from before I was born. But, here we were going on to our next wine from 1970.

There’s a distinct orangish hue to the wine in the glass and it’s definitely pale in its color intensity. The body still shows great balance, with silky tannins, crisp acidity, well-balanced flavor intensity and a spicy long finish.

Aroma wise the very first thing that came to mind was Marichino cherry along with cedar, almond, and fig. For some reason, the aromas of this wine reminded me a lot of the liqueur Amaretto.  The almond and fig notes also carried over to the palate, along with some spice notes.

As a side note, one of the aromas mentioned for this wine was Balsamic vinegar. At first, I thought they were way off but the more I looked for it the more it started to appear. Not sure if it was really there or I succumbed to the power of suggestion.

Faustino I Gran Reserva (1964)

Varietal: Tempranillo, Graciano, Mazuelo, Viura
Aging: 29 months in French and American Oak

1964 bottle

The final wine of the evening is easily the oldest wine I have ever tried, the 1964 vintage.

Initially, I was concerned that the wine might be corked, as the nose on the wine was stale and lifeless. After a few minutes of swirling the wine in the glass, that staleness lifted and was replaced with aromas of caramel, orange, honey, leather, & cedar.

I took my first sip not knowing what to expect from a wine of this age. There was a delightfully sweet nutty taste to the wine. Definitely picked up the honey and caramel notes along with an orange marmalade & licorice.

The only word I can think of to describe the body of this wine is soft, almost velvety. Yet, it still has some bit and some spice to it. This is no longer a wine that you would pair with a main dish anymore but would be excellent as an end of the night drink with a nice piece of cheese.

Final thoughts!

For me, this tasting has to rank as one of my top 5 easily. The opportunity to taste through the vintages alone was worth it, but then to have someone from the winery present to talk about the wines was such a treat.

Well done to both Select Wines and CO-OP Wine Spirits Beer!


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