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CVNE Older Vintage Tour with Carlos Delage, Deputy Export Director


It is a testament to winemaking with excellent parcels of fruit and aging in carefully maintained facilities, that I have consistently enjoyed several bottles of the 1964 CVNE, Vina Real Reserva Especial. I have drunk other vintages as well including the 1976 CVNE, Imperial, Rioja Gran Reserva which was served by Carlos Delage, CVNE Deputy Export Director, at a luncheon in Washington, DC, during early April. What few seem to realize is that CVNE still produces complex, age-worthy traditional wines not only from legendary vintages but those which are overshadowed.

The glass of 2014 CVNE, Monopole Clasico which greeted us upon arrival is rooted in history. This wine was originally made in the 1960s and 1970s but then faded away to no longer be produced.  When Victor Urrita, CVNE CEO, tasted a mature bottle of the 1979, he was so impressed he took the only logical next step; he contacted the winemaker himself, Ezequiel Garcia.

So famed were the CVNE wines produced by Ezequiel Garcia during the 1960s and 1970s that he earned the nickname El Brujo or “The Wizard”. It is his vintages of Vina Real Reserva Especial and Imperial Gran Reserva that savvy wine drinkers covet today. However, his Monopole Clasico has remained obscure until it was resurrected with the 2014 vintage.

Not to be confused with the regular Monopole, the Monopole Clasico is unique in Rioja history as it features a good portion of Sherry. Unlike any other wine, this is a blend of Viura with 15% Manzanilla sourced from the Hidalgo family. The wine is then aged in a combination of American oak and Sherry bota. Incredibly, CVNE is still in possession of the 1970s letter granting permission to bottle this wine as Rioja. We all enjoyed a glass as we gathered for the luncheon. I found it light and fresh with an attractive, oily body throughout and Sherry background note.

Once seated, we started off with an tremendous glass of 2004 Contino, Rioja Reserva.  From an excellent vintage, this is a wine generous in flavor and capable of long age.  In my post Delicious and historic, the 1974 Contino, Rioja Reserva I describe the very first vintage as “age-defying”.  With the 2004 demonstrating potential for that same descriptor, an array of CVNE Imperial, Rioja Gran Reserva illustrats the evolution of wine through the excellent 2010 and 2005 vintages along with the very good 1998 and good 1976 vintages.  The former are still in a development phase but while the 1998 is still structured, it is now gaining complexity from maturity.

The ability for a wine to age is of no importance unless it not only tastes good but also develops the unique flavors from bottle age.  The 1976 tasted at lunch was the best of the two examples I have tasted over the past year, no doubt because it came straight from CVNE.  While it reflects the modest vintage in its gentleness, it has taken on that slightly sweet, concentrated fruit flavor that I love in good wines over 40 years of age. If this is the peak of the 1976 vintage then I can only imagine the heights that the 2010 and 2005 vintages will achieve.

Many thanks to Carlos Delage (CVNE), Gloria Zapatero (CVNE), and Rob McFarlane (Elite Wines) for inviting to the luncheon.

2004 Contino, Rioja Reserva
Alcohol 14.5%. The youngest looking of the first three wines. Still has a grapey color and is highly aromatic on the nose. This is forward, promptly filling the mouth as floral and spiced flavors come out in the middle. It is showing beautifully with a fresh, almost menthol note, hints of sweet oak, and a finish of minerals and good funk. It wraps up with a kick of freshness. ****(*) Now – 2038.

1998 CVNE, Imperial, Rioja Gran Reserva
The nose is complex with red and black fruits with spices. In the mouth the red fruit is taking on maturity. The watering acidity carries the sweet and powdery red fruit. There is some chewy texture from structure and even a little tartness. Though entering maturity it will develop for some time. ***(*) Now – 2028.

1976 CVNE, Imperial, Rioja Gran Reserva
Alcohol 13%. A clear, light to medium garnet. The nose still offers modest depth and meat aromas. In the mouth is a start of focused red fruit then beautiful powdery, cherry fruit flavors. The wine is lithe and light through the middle, carried by watering acidity into a gentle finish. It develops notes of old wood, slightly sweet concentrated fruit, and meat. **** Now but will last.

2010 CVNE, Imperial, Rioja Gran Reserva
Very dark in color and still concentrated in the mouth. With youthful vigor, the flavors are held close but are not tight. There is ripe fruit and racy texture providing the stuffing for years of age. The oak still needs time to integrate. It has a long future over which it will improve. **** 2020-2038.

2005 CVNE, Imperial, Rioja Gran Reserva
The grapey dark color stains the glass. There is a cherry note at first then as the wine slowly opens up black licorice and fresh herbs. It has strength for development. ***(*) 2020-2030.

2012 CVNE, Graciano
This was vinified in oak then aged for 18 months in new French oak. This is very young with tight flavors. A menthol note mixes with the blue and black fruit which is almost bitter. Certainly unique.  *** 2023-2030.

Our host Carlos Delage, CVNE Deputy Export Director

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