This Traditional Wine is Guaranteed to Please

This Traditional Wine is Guaranteed to Please

A comparison of Rioja styles

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I recently tried “Crianza,” “Reserva” and “Gran Reserva” styles from two separate Rioja bodegas – although both are sold under the banner of CVNE. The Compañiá Vinicola Del Norte De España is conveniently pronounced Cu-Nay, and their wines are well-distributed in the U.S. I tried three wines labeled “Cune” and three labeled “Viña Real.” These wines use totally different grape sources and their styles differ accordingly. I found the Cune wines to be generally lighter and more accessible. With the Viña Real, even the Crianza is a bigger, more substantive bottling. The three styles are indicative of how long the wines are aged before being released to the public. Crianzas are the lightest and freshest, Reservas see more oak aging and bottle rest before release, Gran Reservas receive that much more of each – sometimes not released until 10 years after the vintage! Considering the time spent and worry over, the good news is how relatively inexpensive they are.

I love these traditional wines. There’s almost a guarantee when you purchase. Crianzas are almost like Beaujolais; not in flavor, but the fact you can almost taste the grape still on the vine. Reservas are fuller-bodied and smoother, with the considerable splash of vanilla the Spanish love in their reserve wines. Gran Reservas are often treated the most differently, depending on the quality of the vintage. In the case of the 2011 Vina Real Gran Reserva, the wine is lavished with even longer than normal oak aging as its fruit density revels in it. Prices range from $13 to $47. Luckily, all recent Spanish vintages have been good, from 2010 to 2014, with 2011 the truly standout year.

2011 Cune Gran Reserva $47 srp

A gorgeous garnet color – brilliant in the glass. A warm, “cushy” nose – you can feel the quality of this vintage just by the glamorous bouquet. With rounded cherry and mixed berries, it’s high-toned, ethereal, yet beautifully focused. All elements are coming together to create a smooth, vinous whole. Flavors are not heavy, but the cherry/berry compote becomes more fully textured as it airs. This was even better on the second night, indicating excellent aging potential. Drink now-2024.

93/100 points

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Arturo Ciompi
Trained as a classical clarinetist and conductor, Arturo plied his trade for many years in New York, performing with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, New York City Opera, the American Symphony and countless chamber music groups. While living in Durham, Arturo became the wine manager at two iconic gourmet stores: Fowler’s in Durham and Southern Season in Chapel Hill. He had a wine spot on NPR in the ’90s and has been a continuously published wine journalist since 1997. He has won national awards for his work and is currently writing for Durham Magazine and its weekly blog, “Wine Wednesdays”. In addition, he loves teaching the clarinet. Read more on his website.