2019 Faustino VI Rioja – and example of what is right… and wrong with Egoz-Muscat

Readers of this blog know I am a huge fan of the Tempranillo grape. I can appreciate it in almost any style from every-day drinking Elvi semi-crianza Herenza Rioja to the upscale Herenza Reserva, from the big bold Israeli 2016 Netofa Dor to the beautifully refined Yaacov Oryah 2011 Iberian Dream series. I have liked it as a straight red and I have liked it as a rosé. When made with a little care it always does the trick for me. The most famous expressions of Tempranillo are Riojas from Spain. They are found in the most exclusive wine shops, where certain Riojas can last every bit as long and age just as well as wines from the best châteaux in France. The base level Riojas, though, are found in just about every supermarket as an affordable everyday table wine. Until Elvi’s semi-crianza made its way into the Israeli supermarket chains last year, Riojas were simply not available unless you went to a wine shop. Now, Shaked’s kosher arm, Egoz-Muscat has further expanded what is commonly available by introducing the 2019 Faustino VI Rioja.

Faustino is a large and well known producer of Rioja. They make rosés (usually made of Tempranillo), and whites (made of viura – or as it more commonly known Macabeo). Their standard wines are divided into three categories – their highest end wines are usually in the Faustino I line – their Gran Reserva Rioja red wines. The mid-range is Faustino V – the Reserva red Rioja and a higher end white and rosé. Their lowest range is Faustino VII – which has their regular red Rioja as well as a white and rosé. In recent years they have added a few wines that are not included in their Roman numeral system, like a Rioja Crianza, an organic Rioja, a number of Chardonnay releases.

So what is the Faustino VI? It appears to be the same grade wine as the Faustino VII – it is a basic Rioja that has undergone no more than six months of aging (hey, it’s a 2019 and has been released here in Israel for about 2 months already – meaning at the latest, March of 2020). It appears that every now again, one-off special production runs of their Faustino VII are released as Faustino VI (a quick web search indicates that there was Fasutino VI release in 2016 that looks like it was done for a specific supermarket etc.) – and so we have the Faustino VI Kosher Rioja. In fact, outside of the number being VI instead of VII and the addition of the word Kosher, the label seems to be identical to the standard Faustino VII release.

The nose here is what you would expect: red fruit for the most part and a touch of mushroom. In the mouth, some red cherry, some mushroom, a hint of pepper at the back end. Overall, the wine presents old world in style. Now this is not a wine with a lot of depth, but it is – and I hate using this term – a really easy drinking wine. We opened this bottle with another couple on the night of Yom Yerushalayim. I was not really expecting much, but I was pleasantly surprised, not because it was a blow your mind kind of wine, but at j how the bottle just magically disappeared over the course of about thirty minutes. This is EXACTLY the kind of wine you want as an everyday bottle to accompany dinner. While Rioja wines can age, this wine is clearly meant to be drunk young. It doesn’t have the structure to really hold it together for more than a couple of years IMHO. But who cares. This wines is not meant for that.

And here’s the problem. Clearly the suggested retail price is OUTRAGEOUS for a wine that is probably meant to be drunk in the next 12-24 months. At Supersol, it is marked as NIS 75.99. At Derech Hayayin (one of the large wine store chains) the regular price is a whopping NIS 79.99!!! Now to be fair, Derech Hayayin has a 2 for NIS 130 deal so you get it for NIS 65 a bottle. And, HaYevuan, a liquor store primarily based in Jerusalem (they have 2 other branches, 1 near Holon and another near Rechovot) has them for NIS 55. So clearly there is room here for the individual retailers to lower their prices and still make a profit. But let me explain where the wine SHOULD be priced. In Israel, with no specific deal, the Faustino VII sells for between NIS 41-43 – on sale I have seen it for as low as 38 – and quite honestly, this is within the range of how this wine is priced worldwide. Add 2 Euro for kashrut and you end up at NIS 49-51. So Hayevuan has this priced right. But that’s simply not the average price. While Egoz-Muscat doesn’t publish suggested retail prices, based on the fact that Supersol and Derech Hayayin both have a list price at NIS 75-80, one would have to assume it’s not LESS than that. So what’s going on? I really don’t understand it! Were it priced where it should be, this is a wine I would be drinking a few times a week! I can’t figure out what Shaked/Egoz-Muscat’s goal is here, besides turning a profit. They clearly are trying to expand their kosher offerings – and this wine, from a major producer is certainly a step in the right direction – but come on! I can’t figure out why they wouldn’t just sell the hell out of this wine – just move bottles and get to the next vintage and do it again, and again. Now my prediction is, this wine will likely sit on shelves, and then finally get discounted to where Hayevuan is selling it. But that is NOT going to get supermarkets to re-up next year……

Or maybe this is simply avarice on the part of the retailers. Perhaps, while there is a high MSRP, every one of these retailers knows what they need to do to sell this wine, but prefer to see how much they can move at the higher price. Quite honestly, I don’t care what the reason is, I just know that the average shelf price for this wine needs to be NIS 55. That is a fair price for the product. IN fact, if we are comparing it to Elvi’s NIS 55 2018 Herenza Rioja, currently, I would prefer to drink the Faustino! That’s not to say it’s a better wine overall, it isn’t. The Herenza has more depth and will likely last a lot longer and further develop. But for drinking right now, the Faustino checks off all of the boxes – except for price.

Bottom Line:

  • Price: NIS 55-79 !?!?!
  • For Aging: No.
  • Would I Buy Again:  At 55 absolutely, at 65 probably still, at anything above that no!
  • QPR Rating:  Average + at NIS 55, well below average at NIS 79…
  • Taste/Depth/Quality:  For its category, appropriate
  • Overall Rating  (1-5): Hard to rate as price has to factor in, anywhere from 2.5-3.5

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