2004 Imperial, Gran Reserva, C.V.N.E., Rioja, Spain
A touch of dried tobacco leaf and mulled sloe berries and meatiness. Gorgeously sweet fruit on the palate. Quince and an earthiness and a very fine seam of vanilla with a wonderful just-tooled-saddle (not sweaty!) spice note on the finish. Gentle, the texture of chamois leather on the tongue. There is a remarkable freshness, and the mid-palate bursts into sweet sweet cherry just as you think it’s starting to segue into dry spices. Thrilling, almost haunting, with generous persistence. So balanced. Do not spit this wine.
Drink 2013 - 2024
Tamlyn Currin, jancisrobinson.com (November 2023)
The 2004 Imperial Gran Reserva is 85% Tempranillo, 10% Graciano, and 5% Mazuelo aged in new French and American oak for 24 months. Deep crimson-colored, it gives up aromas of toast, spice box, espresso, blackberry, and plum. Medium to full-bodied, on the palate it displays a plush texture, ripe flavors, excellent volume and concentration, and a relatively forward personality.
Compania Vinicola del Norte de Espana (C.V.N.E.) is known colloquially to most Spanish wine drinkers as Cune. The company was founded in 1879 by the Real de Asua brothers and still remains in control of their direct descendants. In the 1920s ownership started Vina Real and in 2004 a new winery was built in Laguardia. In 1973 Contino was created to further the concept of the single estate winery and has since been one of the principal leaders in the resurrection of the nearly extinct Graciano grape.
The Contino wines are made exclusively from the estate’s 253 acres located in Laserna near the town of Laguardia. The Reserva bottling is the mainstay of the Contino lineup produced from vines ranging in age from 25 to 60 years. The Contino Vina Del Olivo is the product of a dry farmed single vineyard of the same name planted in 1980. The blend is 90% Tempranillo with the balance Graciano and Carinena aged in new oak for 18 months. The Imperial label is affixed at C.V.N.E. only in the top vintages.
Drink 2013 - 2024
Jay Miller, Wine Advocate (June 2010)
About this WINE
Bodegas C.V.N.E. is still owned and run by the Real de Asua family whose ancestors established it back in 1879. Its full name is Compañía Vinicola del Norte de España but it more commonly known as "coonay".
In the late 1980s the firm built a spanking new stainless steel winery in the town of Haro and is now producing thoroughly "modern" style Rioja wines. Both red and whites are produced and their white Rioja is one of the few remaining heavily-oaked examples on the market today.
The 2 different ranges of C.V.N.E, the Vina Real and Imperial, are rich, full-bodied Riojas, with the Reservas and Grand Reservas being some of the most long-lived in the region today.
Rioja is known primarily for its reds although it also makes white wines from the Viura and Malvasia grapes and rosés mainly from Garnacha. Most wineries (bodegas) have their own distinct red wine formula, but are normally a combination of Tempranillo, Garnacha and sometimes Graciano. Other red varieties recently approved into the Denominación de Origen Calificada (DOCa) regulations are the little-known Maturana Tinta, Maturana Parda, and Monastel (not to be confused with Monastrell). The most important of these by far is the king of native Spanish varieties, Tempranillo, which imbues the wines with complex and concentrated fruit flavours.
The Garnacha, meanwhile, bestows its wines with warm, ripe fruit and adds an alcohol punch. Graciano is an améliorateur grape (one that is added, often in small proportions, to add a little something to the final blend) and is found mainly in Reserva and Gran Reserva wines, albeit in small quantities (two to five percent), adding freshness and aroma, and enhancing the wines' ageing potential.
Crianza wines are aged for one year in oak followed by maturation for one year in bottle before being released for sale. Reservas must undergo a minimum of three years’ ageing before release, at least one of which should be in oak casks. Finally, Gran Reservas, which are only produced in the finest vintages, must spend at least five years maturing, of which at least two must be in oak.
Geographically, Rioja is divided in to three districts: Alavesa, Alta and Baja. Rioja Alavesa lies in the northwest of the La Rioja region in the Basque province of Álava. Along with Rioja Alta, it is the heartland of the Tempranillo grape. Rioja Alta, to the north-west and south of the Ebro River in the province of La Rioja, stretches as far as the city of Logroño. Elegance and poise is the hallmark of wines made here with Rioja Alta Tempranillo. Mazuelo (Carignan) is occasionally added to wines from this area to provide tannins and colour. Rioja Baja, located to the south-east, is the hottest of the three districts and specialises in Garnacha.
Rioja has witnessed a broad stylistic evolution over the years. The classic Riojas pioneered by Murrieta and Riscal in the 19thcentury were distinguished by long oak-barrel-ageing whereas the modern style, represented by Marqués de Cáceres since 1970, showcases the fruit and freshness of Tempranillo, keeping oak ageing to the legal minimum. The post-modern school that emerged in the late 1990s from producers like Palacios Remondo and Finca Allende concentrate on making wines from old vines or specific vineyard plots to accentuate the terroir, and using larger proportions of minority varietals such as Graciano.
The alta expression wines, pioneered by Finca Allende (among others) and later taken up by almost every other producer in Rioja, represent the newest flagship category in Rioja. Alongside the traditional Gran Reservas, alta expression wines are limited production and come from low-yielding vines, often from a single vineyard, and are hand-picked. Excellent examples of this style are Artadi's Pagos Viejos and El Pison.
However, modernisation has not held back the continuation of successful traditional styles as well. Happily long-established houses such La Rioja Alta, CVNE and Marques de Vargas continue to make graceful, old style wines better than ever before.
White Rioja is typically produced by the Viura grape which must comprise at least 51 percent of the blend; the rest can be made up by other, recently-authorised varieties, namely Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Verdejo, as well as the native Maturana Blanca, Tempranillo Blanco, and Turruntés (not to be mistaken for Torrontés).
Finca Allende, Amezola de la Mora, Artadi, CVNE, Marqués de Vargas, Palacios Remondo, La Rioja Alta, Murrieta.
A high quality red wine grape that is grown all over Spain except in the hot South - it is known as Tinto Fino in Ribera del Duero, Cencibel in La Mancha and Valdepenas and Ull de Llebre in Catalonia. Its spiritual home is in Rioja and Navarra where it constitutes around 70% of most red blends.
Tempranillo-based wines tend to have a spicy, herbal, tobacco-like character accompanied by ripe strawberry and red cherry fruits. It produces fresh, vibrantly fruit driven "jovenes" meant for drinking young. However Tempranillo really comes into its own when oak aged, as with the top Riojas where its flavours seem to harmonise perfectly with both French and American oak, producing rich, powerful and concentrated wines which can be extraordinarily long-lived.
In Ribera del Duero it generally sees less oak - the exception being Vega Sicilia where it is blended with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot and then aged for an astonishing 7 years in oak and is unquestionably one of the world`s greatest wines.
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The cepage of this wine is dominated by Tempranillo, however small percentages of Graciano and Mazuelo are added to give the wine an extra level of complexity and character. The ageing takes place in new French and American oak and lasts for 24 months. Aromas of spice-box, coffee grounds, black cherry & damsons are both harmonious & rich, whilst the palate is medium-full bodied & can only be described as voluptuous and concentrated.
It is just starting to drink nicely now and will continue to be a sure thing until 2024.
Nick Stewart, Berry Bros. & Rudd
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