Our History

Empress Eugénie de Montijo, her history, our history

The origins of our history go back to Eugénie de Montijo, wife of Napoleon III and last Empress of France, after whom the winery is named. In 1878, the Empress, who was the owner of the estate at the time, entered a wine in a competition at the Universal Exhibition in Paris, which won a prize. It was made from these vineyards, in Baños de Rioja (Rioja Alta), and that award recognised the potential and uniqueness of the estate.


Over the centuries, the property changed hands until 1996, when it was acquired by the Hernáiz family, who were unaware of its history and potential. Eduardo and Víctor Hernáiz took over with the clear aim of producing quality wines from this historic vineyard.


Hailing from the Rioja town of Cenicero, where the family had owned vineyards for generations, they added to the project other estates in Rioja Alta such as Fuenmayor, Navarrete and Hornos de Moncalvillo, as well as the vineyard at La Emperatriz.


Who was Empress Eugenia de Montijo?

María Eugenia Ignacia Agustina de Palafox-Portocarrero de Guzmán y Kirkpatrick was born in Granada on 5 May 1826 into a family of aristocratic and French origin. Countess of Baños and Teba, she was the younger daughter of Cipriano Palafox, Duke of Peñaranda and Grandee of Spain, who served Napoleon I in his youth.


Several royal houses and aristocratic families are closely linked to her figure: The elder sister of the Empress Eugenia de Montijo, Francisca, married the Duke of Alba, and Eugenia de Montijo was the godmother of the English Princess Victoria of Battenberg, who later became the wife of Alfonso XIII.


In 1853, Eugenia de Montijo married Napoleon III. He was the nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte, President of the Second French Republic (1848-1852) and Emperor of France (1852-1870).


A unique personality

The Empress Eugénie de Montijo was one of the most important and influential personalities of her time. She was undoubtedly a woman ahead of her time.


She took an open interest in her husband’s political affairs, was his advisor on many occasions, rightly or wrongly, and was regent on up to three occasions in Napoleon III’s absence.


She encouraged Louis Pasteur’s research and gave financial support to the Suez Canal project. Her role, beauty and elegance meant she had a strong influence on fashion trends of the time. It was with the Empress Eugénie de Montijo that brands such as Louis Vuitton and Guerlain took their first steps.

A chapter in wine history

Emperors also played an important role in the world of wine. It was Napoleon III who established the official classification of Bordeaux wines into “crus” in 1855. This classification is still in force today and has hardly changed since.

Old Winery

The Empress owned a unique vineyard in Baños de Rioja.

From the Empress Eugénie to the Hernáiz brothers

When the Empress Eugenia of Montijo died childless, her estate passed to her sister Francisca, who was married to Jacobo Fitz-James Stuart, Duke of Alba. Consequently, the fief of Montijo, which included Baños de Rioja, passed to one of the couple’s four children.


The estate was divided up and sold separately, with the Baños de Rioja estate being bought by some Basque industrialists and later becoming the property of the Count of Torremuzquiz, from whom the Hernáiz family would buy the estate in 1996.


Eduardo and Víctor, the present day

Between 1996 and 2000, Eduardo and Víctor restored the vineyards and studied the terroir of the estate, discovering how special it was and the history behind it. The current winery building was built at this time.


It was during this period that Eduardo and Víctor realised that the estate had the potential for much more: the direction was towards the production of quality wines.

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