One of the jolliest of our recent Spectator Winemaker Lunches was that hosted by Maria Urrutia, fifth--generation director of the family-owned Compañia Vinicola del Norte de España, better known as CVNE, producers of exemplary Rioja since 1879.
Fine Rioja is, famously, one of the most accessible of all wines and the most fairly priced, especially when compared to Bordeaux, Burgundy and beyond. The wines
are only released when ready to drink (a punter-friendly concept completely unknown to the Bordelais), with labels and terminology that are easy to understand.
For example, ‘Crianza’ means the wine has been aged for at least two years in oak and bottle, with a minimum of one year in the oak; ‘Reserva’ means it has been aged for three years, with a minimum of one year in oak; ‘Gran Reserva’ means at least two years in oak with at least three in bottle.
We drank long and we drank deep that day, and I’m proud to say the spittoons were returned to the Spectator cupboard as pristine as they’d left it. Thanks to Mr Wheeler, the wines we drank are now available here and I can’t recommend them highly enough.
The 2017 Viña Real Barrel Fermented Blanco (1) is a deliciously fresh and creamy white made from 100 per cent Viura. There are hints of green apples, spice and a touch of vanilla and it’s really rather grown-up for the price. £9.50 down from £11.25.
The 2016 Asúa Crianza (2) is a fresh’n’ fruity red for knocking back with abandon. Little complexity here but plenty of joyously succulent, spicy, plummy fruit. £12.25 down from £13.75.
The 2014 Contino Reserva (3) is a perfectly judged Tempranillo-based blend aged in American and French oak. A claret of similar quality would be half as much again for sure. There’s plenty of ripe red fruit, touches of vanilla and spice, even liquorice, and a long, elegantly soft finish. £20 down from £23.50.
The 2015 CVNE Imperial Reserva (4) is another cracker. Made from 40-year-old vines (again, chiefly Tempranillo), it’s bursting with soft, ripe bramble fruit with whispers of roasted nuts, toffee and spice. Crikey, there’s a lot going on here and the finish lasts forever. £22.50 down from £25.
The 2013 CVNE Viña Real Gran Reserva (5), made from 95 per cent Tempranillo and 5 per cent Graciano is so charming with red and black bramble fruit, spice and herbs. So soft is it, I would happily drink it on its own without food. £25 down from £29.
As for the 2011 CVNE Imperial Rioja Gran Reserva (6), from the company’s oldest vineyards — well, it gives you the come-on the minute you waft it under your beak with its enticing aromas of forest fruits, vanilla and tobacco. In the mouth, it’s all autumnal, mellow fruit and the longest of long finishes. Goodness, it’s good! £40 down from £47.50.
Finally, we’ve the 2011 Roger Goulart Gran Reserva Cava (7). I’m not a fan of cava as a rule, not when there are so many other fine, frothsome fizzes out there. But sales of cava far outstrip the sales of any other traditional--method fizz and if cava is your thing, this fully mature, typical blend of Xarello, Macabeo and Parellada should be right up your alley. £15 down from £19.
Ok, sit up straight and pay attention. There are two discounted boxes on offer, one of 12 bottles and one of six bottles.
The CVNE Taster Case contains three bottles each of wines 1 and 2, two bottles each of 3 and 4, and one bottle each of 5 and 6. CVNE Top Rioja Six Pack contains two bottles each of wines 4, 5 and 6.
Delivery, as ever, is free.