CVNE, the Compania Vinicola del Norte de España, is popularly known as Cune (‘koo-nay’) in Spain – so much so that they adopted Cune for branding one of their ranges of Riojas, from entry-level all the way up to Gran Reserva. My sense is that the Cune brand is primarily deployed in the domestic Spanish market.
For me, however, its flagship Rioja brand is Imperial, produced only as Reserva and Gran Reserva. Imperial wines were amongst the first Riojas I drank, such as the 1990 Gran Reserva and 1996 Reserva. It is rightly an icon of classically-styled wines with the elegance of Rioja Alta. The wines of this range are widely available in the UK.
Getting your head around all of CVNE’s brands and their relative positioning is no easy task, as they have a fair few across their large, 9m bottle a year production. Alongside Cune and Imperial, CVNE more recently added a top-end Vino de Autor to the CVNE-labelled range – Real de Asúa, named after CVNE’s founding family – initially released as a Vino de la Tierra, rather than a Rioja. I have a bottle of the 2010 maturing in my cellar. Finally, for white wines only, there is Cune’s entry-level Monopole range, which includes a Rueda Verdejo. I think that’s all of their CVNE-endorsed brands…
CVNE’s other two labels, comprising around 3m bottles of the 9m, are much less connected to the CVNE brand itself and are generally held at arms-length. Viña Real is based around a bodega in Rioja Alavesa between Laguardia and Logroño. Packaged in a Burgundian bottle, there is only CVNE branding on the Gran Reserva in a style similar to Imperial – the CVNE badge, block white-on-blue lettering and so on. Viña Real is also a classical Rioja, with finesse and elegance at the Gran Reserva level, as well as longevity. We opened a bottle of the 1973 for my brother’s 40th birthday in 2013 and it was on fine form.
Not far from Viña Real is the Contino château-style bodega, which carries no CVNE branding at all, and as such I have profiled separately.
We did the tourist visit of CVNE’s bodega in the Barrio de la Estación district of Haro, in 2014, where we learned a little about the production of Imperial.
Rioja Alta fruit is hand-picked then chilled at 10°C for 24 hours before manual selection. This is fully-destemmed before hauling into 16 French oak 16,500L vats for fermentation. 4 smaller vats are used for fruit allocated to Real de Asúa.
Fermentation takes place with temperature controlled to maximum 30°C using internal hot / cold water coils, with pumpovers for extraction. MLF is also done in vat, before the wines are transferred to 225L new barriques in a mix of 60% American (around €300 / barrel) and 40% French (€600 / barrel) oak. Reservas are aged for 2 years and Gran Reserva for 3.
The Eiffel-designed barrel room is held at a constant 16°C. Barrels are racked every 3 months, meaning 250 barrels a day. Once used for Imperial, these barrels will transfer to the Cune range and have an 8-year total lifespan.
We tasted only one wine there. Additional notes are those Ruth made at a Planet of the Grapes CVNE-Contino dinner in 2015. More notes will certainly be added from future tastings!
CVNE La Viña de Imperial 2008 (?? / 20)
Tasted at the bodega in 2014. Limited edition wine made from the same vines as Imperial, but made like Cune. Not as high acidity. 60% American and 40% French oak.
A: Mid ruby-garnet
N: Bright, crisp cherry. Hints of mocha and vanilla, and some dried herbs
P: Medium, chalky tannins. Bright cherry. Mid weight and length
Viña Real Rioja Rosado 2014 (?? / 20)
Ruth’s tasting notes. Newest wine in the company. 85% Viura, 15% Tempranillo from Rioja Alavesa. Simple winemaking process – grapes in tank for 6 hours, no press, just the effects of gravity. Open the taps, bleed off the must and ferment at low temperatures for 22-25 days. An unusually light style of rosé for Spain. £12 / bottle.
A: Clear pale pink
N: Medium aromatic intensity – fresh delicate strawberry. Youthful
P: Dry, high acidity, medium ABV (12.5%) and body. Medium flavour intensity with notes of fresh strawberry, raspberry. Medium(+) finish. Conclusions – Drink now; good quality, balanced though not complex or intense
Viña Real Rioja Reserva 2009 (?? / 20)
Ruth’s tasting notes. 90% Tempranillo, 10% Mazuelo, Garnacha and Graciano. Fermentation in stainless steel. Two years in new French oak. Racking every 4 months. 2-3 years in bottle before release. £22 / bottle.
A: Medium ruby
N: Vanilla, dried red fruit and toast
P: Dry, high acidity, full bodied, high tannins but well-integrated and velvety. Pronounced flavours of elegant red fruit and some vanilla. Outstanding quality. Could age further
CVNE Imperial Rioja Gran Reserva 2005 (?? / 20)
Ruth’s tasting notes. Magnum. 90% Tempranillo, 10% Graciano and Mazuelo. Fermented in oak. Oak aged 2 years (half in American oak, half in French). Amazing ageing potential. £85 / magnum.
A: Vibrant medium ruby
N: Red fruit, some smokiness and some more savoury, vegetal notes
P: Dry, medium(+) acidity. Pronounced flavour intensity. Fresh flavours of soft red fruit are still there, but overall dried fruit notes are more prominent. Some toast. Long finish
CVNE Real de Asúa Rioja 2010 (?? / 20)
Ruth’s tasting notes. Made in CVNE in Rioja Alta, in the same cellar as Imperial. Real de Asúa is the name of the founding family. 100% Tempranillo, with a late harvest to maximise concentration. Hand harvest and selection of grapes. Fermented in French oak vats. Aged for 22 months in new French oak. Has “Vino de Autor” character. Very limited production – only made in 2001, 2004 and 2010, around 1,000 bottles apiece. £62 / bottle.
A: Deep ruby
N: Steely quality with aromas of fresh dark black fruit
P: Really pure varietal character – black / dark red fresh fruit and some spice. Lovely. Outstanding quality. Ageing potential