Interview with Juan Muga of Bodegas Muga (Rioja, Spain)

Juan Muga

Ok, so, let’s start from the top…name?

Juan, Juan Muga, the same as the wine.


I’m on the business side. Me and my brother, we are the 3rd generation we manage the whole company as well as the export market, and my 2 cousins manage the technical part of the winery. Zach, my younger cousin is more into winemaking, and my other cousin Jorge is more into vines.

Has wine always been your career?

Yes. I have another brother and another sister, but they are in other companies, they are not interested in winemaking.

Describe the philosophy of your winery, Bodegas Muga.

My Grandfather founded the winery in a small village in the Rioja region of Spain. In the village, people used to consume a lot of wine! When he first started making it, it was all young wine. All the wines he made used to be make, were consumed when they were young, we didn’t do any aging. At that time, many families used to consume, like, 6-7 liters per day! Even children, they used to have wine as a toast, with a little sugar in it of course!


How do you personally believe the Rioja region is different from the rest of Spain?

Well, Rioja is the most popular region in Spain and was the 1st region producing quality wines. The region where we are (Rioja), everything was really started because of phylloxera {a vine disease that almost wiped out of of the grape vines in France}. Phylloxera almost wiped out all the vineyards of Bordeaux, so they didn’t have any grapes to make wine, so they were looking for other regions to produce wine. One of the regions is the area where we are. So 110-120 years ago they were transporting our grapes and our wine to Bordeaux and making it there. Their was no law against it! They could buy grapes from our region, make it in Bordeaux, label it as Bordeaux and then sell it as a Bordeaux!
So a lot of where the Rioja is today is thanks to France. They considered the Rioja region of Spain to be the closest thing to Bordeaux out of all the vineyards in Europe.

I did a little research, and I see that you guys are making your own barrels, you own your own cooperage. Why do you believe that’s so important for Bodegas Muga as a winery?

Since my Grandfather started Bodeags Muga we have had our own cooperage. It’s not only marketing, like a lot of new wineries do, but we like to choose our own oak, we buy our oak from Kentucky, Ohio and also France. It has to be dried for 2 years before we start making barrels, if it isn’t, it can give a “green” taste to the wine. Something else is that, for us to produce our own barrels, the cost can actually be more than if we were to buy from someone else, but we believe it’s worth it to get what we are looking for.
We also really believe the level of toast inside the barrel is very important to us. It depends on the wine we are producing, we have different taste and different levels of toast. For the Torre Muga and the Aro we have a high toast to give more complexity to the wines.

Along the same lines, what do you truly believe separates Bodegas Muga from the competition of other producers in Rioja?

What we do different is that we’re family owned. It is 100% our own business. We also place a high emphasis on oak, we don’t use any stainless steel. We are the only winery in Spain doing our fermentation in oak. All of our red wines are unfiltered.

And why is it important that your wines are unfiltered?

Well not a lot of people know, but the filter takes out a lot of taste in the wine.

What would you say is the biggest misconception about Spanish wines?Muga Rioja

The value!

With the Euro and the Dollar, especially at the moment?

The Euro is quite strong right now, and the value of Spanish wine is still very, very good, and not just because I’m Spanish! Many people say that Spanish wine is one of the best in the world, but there are many regions that claim this. For me the best wine is the wine that you try, and the wine that you like, regardless of price! I cannot tell people that my wines are the best wines that people are going to try, people have to decide for themselves.

Would you say that is your biggest challenge at the moment, the perception of value of your wines?

Our real challenge is just to continue making wine. You’re right, Spain is having a hard time in Europe in general, but more in Spain. Spain is the worst in Europe, along with Greece, Italy and Portugal, however the export market is still working very good. The American market is still the best market for sales of Spanish wine.

Per capita?

Erm no, per capita it’s England.

Ok, a lighter subject! Your favorite food and wine pairing?

I travel a lot and I like to try the food where I am, the local food. I don’t really have a favorite food…


Well, ok, I love seafood, I love the beef you have in America, from Texas the beef is amazing!

If you’re not drinking your own wines, what are you drinking?

I like very much Californian and Australian wines, I think they have some excellent wines.

Your favorite Californian Cab?


Good choice!


Well, yeah! Let me know when you find it!


Click here for the Bodegas Muga Website.

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