Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Sampling Spanish Gold

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Sampling Spanish Gold

Article excerpt

Byline: ANDREW CAMPBELL ON WINE

IN the competitive, big-bucks world of the modern wine industry, Spain's grand old region of Rioja offers some of the best deals.

I've written reams of Rioja recommendations during recent months - not least the frequently discounted supermarket own-labels many of which are produced by the ubiquitous Baron de Ley.

However there's a historic name in Rioja that's well-stocked in the UK, yet rarely comes cheap.

Owned by the same family since its foundation in 1879, the Compania Vinicola del Norte de Espana (or CVNE for short) is a legend in northern Spain's famed red wine region - responsible for many wine-making firsts. Bizarrely, an early mis-spelling means they're better known as Cune and even the company crest bears the literal.

By the late 20th century Cune had gained an unenviable reputation for being traditional and old-fashioned but a new PS12m winery soon put paid to that and Cune is now considered to be right back on form.

So, what does its latest crop taste like and is it worth paying a little bit extra for with so many great value Riojas on our shelves? CVNE's Reserva I start with the Imperial Reserva 2009 made from tempranillo grapes with a dash of mazuelo and graciano. Like many of the Cune's wines, Imperial has history - being first produced in the 1920s and only created during the best vintages. The 2009 is powerful, yet silky smooth, with masses of vanilla from two years ageing in oak. The nose is also packed with cherry and chocolate aromas and a hint of raisin. The taste is classic rioja with cherry, cedar and a touch of spice and a long luxurious finish. It's not cheap (upwards of PS20 online from numerous retailers) yet it's a wine that rightly picks up gold medals by the barrel load.

In 1973 Cune teamed up with local growers to produce the Contino brand which sparked a trend towards single-estate Bordeaux style chateaux in Rioja. The temperanillo-dominated Contino Rioja Reserva 2008 is also priced at around PS20 and is packed with flavour, a fiery acidity and at nearly 15 per cent, a head-splitting amount of alcohol. …

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