Compañía Vinícola del Norte del España
La Rioja Alta, Haro
The last visit scheduled in Rioja was to one of the old stalwarts back in the courtyard in Haro at CVNE. CVNE was founded in 1879 by the Basque Bilbao brothers Real de Asua. The brothers did not know anything about wine production and quickly realized they needed help. With that, they hired a wine professional to get them going and once they were able to manage on their own purchased back the entire business that to this day remains in the lineage of the family’s descendants.
Also known commercially as CUNE, this change was brought about by changing the V to a U for easier pronunciation. The top wines are denoted as CVNE and the lower end wines get the friendlier CUNE moniker. CVNE stands for “Compañía Vinícola del Norte del España” or in English the Northern Spanish Wine Company.
The vineyard holdings are dispersed over various different terroir in Rioja Alta and Alavesa. The holdings make up half of the production, while the other half are purchased from local growers. All grapes are manually harvested with a first sorting of the best grape bunches. The selected bunches are then destemmed and a second sorting of the grape berries occurs. The grapes are then crushed and go into the fermentation tanks.
For the top wine “Imperial”, French oak fermentation tanks are used to conduct a natural indigenous yeast fermentation. During fermentation, manual pump overs of wine back over the cap occur daily (remontage) until alcoholic fermentation ends. Malolactic fermentation occurs in enormous cement tanks where the newly fermented wine is moved after alcoholic fermentation and before barrel aging.
Imperial is aged primarily in both French and American Oak, with a tiny portion less than 1% in Hungarian oak. 4-5 month racking intervals in barrel clarify the wines while they age. The aging regimen is 4 years for the Imperial Reserva, with 2 in oak barrique. The aging regimen is 6 years for the Imperial Reserva, with 3 in oak barrique.
Interestingly enough, Gustave Eifel designed the barrel aging room. His signature ornate design of the metal roof support beams is the only indication he was involved.
Next, we made our way to the aging rooms. Similar to Lopez de Heredia but smaller and on the same level as the facility, we took a look around through the old web and mold infested cellars. We made our way back to the tasting room after to sample the wines. We had our own private room that is entirely a neutral white color so the wine colors could not be affected while being assessed.
The tasting was thorough and easy as I mostly poured our own way, mowing them down one after another. We tasted just about everything except Contino Gran Reserva.
Pineapple, lemons, lime and bitter almond finish. Perfectly dry and crisp, a nice quaffer. Bottled in a traditional Alsatian flute.
Copper salmon in color. Floral, blood orange peel, frankincense, not my favorite as the bitter notes were overwhelming and heightened by the high acidity.
Tempranillo 90%, Garnacha and Mazuelo were the balance. Red Cherry, oak, licorice with tobacco, and a lifting blood orange tangy note. Medium+ body, full and bristling acidity.
Imperial Reserva 2010
Powerful but elegant, fresh red fruits and acidity. Dill, spice, and suave oak, cherry, toast, tobacco create a complex, opulent and distinguished Reserva. An incredibly balanced wine, this could easily surpass many Gran Reserva in quality. Buy this by the case and enjoy it over the next 30 years!
Real de Asua 2011
Made entirely from one site within the Villalba vineyards in Rioja Alta of 70-80-year-old vines. A deep color of purple and ruby, with notes of Earth, licorice, tobacco, cherry and dabs of vanilla and toast. This has a powerful and even modern fruit expression, firm, fleshy and ripe tannins, shows excellent structure. Good acidity and excellent depth. Excellent length and precision on the finish. A bit young now, should be a beauty in 5-12 years and age for a total of 25 years easy. This spends 18 months in all new French oak barrique.
Contino 2009 Reserva
Fruitier than the Imperial Reserva with less oak influence. Medium bodied, but with excellent acidity and freshness. A slightly reduced nose but the palate shows well the cherry, plum, cranberry, cinnamon, and iron. This seems more terroir-driven as the parts making up the palate seem like they would be more subject to vintage conditions.
Real Gran Reserva 2008
Ripe and sharp pomegranate, blackberry, and black raspberry with a definitively modern and ripe palate profile. Ripe and polished tannins. An odd change in the finish turns feral and green, likely symptomatic of the cooler 2008 vintage that had its share of poor weather.
Imperial Gran Reserva 2009
Typical (as in excellent) GR Imperial nose, elegant red fruits, suave oak, perfectly integrated. Mouthfeel is young and firm, yet what relents is a wonderful hint at the future of what this wine will give. Plenty to appreciate now but I think it will indeed only gain in complexity and only get better (if you have the patience). A long, firm, persistently energizing and pleasant finish.