CVNE Imperial Gran Reserva is the towering summit of great Rioja, indeed Josh Raynolds of Vinous Media believes the crowning of great Spanish wines; ‘In the context of world-class Spanish wines, which this one is, there’s truly outstanding value here.’ He awards it 94 points. Over the weekend we were fortunate enough to partake in a vertical tasting at the Estate running from the newly bottled yet unreleased 2011, back to 1953. The older vintages such as the 1953, 1968, 1988 and 1995 lace a tapestry of a brilliant terroir driven wine. They are dedicated to purity of fruit and balance, ageing gracefully, yet powerfully and often fooling you into thinking they are a decade younger: truly age worthy and majestic. We tasted several modern classics, including the 2004, however, the 2001 and 2010 are the embodiment of magical Rioja, immediately enveloping your olfactory system, pulling you in like a siren, while the palate brings you back to your senses with incredible elegance, complexity and torque. We are delighted to offer the 2010 today.
It is no secret the 2010 vintage in Rioja is sublime, the weather gifting a natural potential to the wines that sings through the glass. CVNE Imperial Gran Reserva 2010 is quite brilliant, Luis Gutierrez of the Wine Advocate says ‘We’re in for a treat with the 2010 Imperial Gran Reserva, a classic among classics in a classic vintage.’ He awards it a superb 94 points; Tim Atkin MW goes even further giving it 97 points. Here comes the best part, we are offering it today for 6×75 – £200 IB, which equates to £33.30 a bottle for a world class wine. This provides a Price Over Points Ratio of 29, which in the context of other regional greats is simply remarkable. The market certainly reacts to the price, the 2004 already costs £360 per case of six, the 2001 £400 per case, which also has 94 points from the Wine Advocate.
The price is particularly remarkable when one considers the production cost, only around 4,000 cases are made, each is aged 36 months in cask and then 48 months in bottle before being released to market. The wine heralds from vineyards around Villalba and Haro in Rioja Alta, with a minimum vine age of 20 years, up to 80 years in many cases. Seeing is believing here, the vineyards are bush trained, bathing in the sun, protected by the Cantabrian Mountains, creating micro climates within micro climates – the vistas are breath-taking. Only the healthiest grapes are selected from the fittest bushes: many long-retired bushes remain, yet not replanted due to the intricate and co-dependant route system: the singular thought is quality. Only hand harvesting would work here due to the terroir, then bunches are hand selected, cold macerated, prior to a cold temperature fermentation. Following a long maceration, the wines go through malolactic fermentation and then into barrels of American and French oak; then bottle age.
The winery itself is a marvel, surrounded by as you might guess, the other greats, Vina Tondonia and La Rioja Alta, the who’s who of Rioja Alta itself. It is inspired by Alexandre Gustave Eiffel, famed for his eponymously named tower! This resulted in metal trusses being used from wall to wall, rather than conventional columns, in order to improve open space, helping the ageing and management of barrels. The first Imperial was made in the 1920s, deriving its name from the Imperial Pint measurement. Bodegas C.V.N.E, which stands for Compagna Vinicola del Norte de Espana, was established in 1879 and is still in the hands of the Real de Aua family who created it. It is one of the most renowned, revered and accomplished bodegas in Spain and can proudly take responsibility for much of the truly great growth that Rioja has made in the world of fine wine. CVNE today is comprised of three bodegas, CVNE, Vina Real and Contino. Each Estate boasting its own unique style, distinct terroir and each producing a flagship wine that features in the pantheon of great Spanish wine.
CVNE Imperial Gran Reserva is extremely popular with private clients and restaurants yet is also a wine the fine wine trade stocks up on. It is brilliantly priced, can be drunk with immense pleasure now, or age for fourty years. In fact, there is a material absence of old Rioja on the market, we don’t see enough left in client cellars to achieve its full potential. The 2010 is truly great, we recommend you buy a few cases to drink now and a few to forget about, it will pay you back in trumps!
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