I found this WTN from 2001 on a vertical of CVNE's Viña Real Gran Reserva. I hope that this helps the discussion on the behaviour of a top brand of traditional Rioja through the ageing cycle. (Incidentally I'm not sure that Viña Real is (or was) predominately from Garnacha, though that was stated by Mike Berry at the tasting; the CVNE website states that the 1998 GR is 95% Tempranillo and 5% Graciano.)
Topic: TN: A vertical of CVNE''s Viña Real Gran Reserva.
Author: Tim York
Date: Tue Dec 4 10:10:17 2001
Another illuminating vertical at La Vigneronne on 29th November tutored by Mike Berry.
Viña Real and the perhaps better known Imperial and Contino are the jewels in the crown of the highy respected Rioja shipper Compañia Vinicola del Norte de España ("CVNE" or "Cune"). Viña Real is sourced principally from Garnacha grapes grown in the Alavesa region of Rioja and is intended to be "burgundian" in character as the bottle shape implies. Imperial is sourced mainly from Tempranillo and is more "bordelais" in character as well as in bottle shape.
In general the colour of these wines was brick of medium depth. The deepest was 1994 but not even the oldest showed significant paling or browning at the edges.
- 1994 - N: Sweet elegance ("hints of spice and nutmeg" said Mike Berry) but relatively one dimensional on return after sampling its older brothers. P: Sweet fruit balanced by marked but non-astringent acidity together with good substance and structure. Already marking the character of the tasting; not a blockbuster but a firm, elegant and well balanced wine only asking for time to develop the aromatics and sensuality of the better older vintages. Very good/excellent already; potentially excellent/outstanding.
- 1991 - N: Creamier or more evolved than previous. P: More disjointed and less structure and acidity than previous but with nice ripe fruit w raspberry hints. A hint of dustiness on finish. Near its peak. Very good.
- 1982 - N: Sweet fruit showing some evolution and opening up on swirl depths on roundness and complexity with hints of leather. P: Beautifully balanced and elegant with complex fruit, grip, structure and length and velvety mouth-feel. Maybe a little more time required to extract the optimum sensuality. Excellent; potentially outstanding.
- 1981 - N: Sweeter and more minty than previous with cherry hints. P: Hints of jamminess and one of the sweetest and biggest of the range but with good grip and stucture. Less well balanced and elegant than the best and probably at its peak. Very good/excellent.
- 1970 - N: Rich and complex. P: Rich, discreetly sensual and deep w chocolate hints and ripe structure. I managed to buy the shop''s last bottle of this. Excellent.
- 1968 - N: Sweet fruit with some mint and a wet dog note. P: Sweetly elegant but with malt notes and marked acidity. Less generous than the best and short on sensuality. Considering than Mike Berry had built up 1968 as an outstanding vintage, I found this disappointing. A poor bottle? Perhaps more airing in the decanter was required; one of the other tasters commented that he had had similar first impression to mine at a dinner, by the end of which the wine had blown off the wet dog aroma and had fleshed out into an outstanding drink. Good + tonight; potentially ?
- 1966 - N: Sweet, elegant and complex. P: Well balanced, elegant, round and deep with a velvety mouth-feel. Hints of drying on the finish. Excellent but drink up.
- 1964 - N: Sweet fruit of great complexity, roundness and elegance with a hint of meat. P: Everything perfectly mature and in balance. Rich fruit, ripe structure, sufficient grip, velvety mouth-feel and great length. Outstanding.
- 1962 - N: Lovely discreet red fruit w coffee hints. P: Elegant sweet fruit and attractively aromatic but leaner and drier than previous. 1964 was a hard act to follow. Very good/excellent; drink up.
- 1959 - N: More subdued than some w mint and meat notes together with some wet dog initially which blew off. P: Still very vigorous and youthful-seeming and bigger than most of the others. Sweet, almost jammy, fruit balanced by still perceptible acid and tannin. Excellent.
This tasting was another demonstration of how perfect mature classically made Rioja can be in an elegantly sensual style. Mike Berry said that an earlier vertical of Imperial, which sadly I did not attend, was perhaps even more remarkable with vintages back to the 30s still showing outstandingly well. For me the best classic Rioja ranks in its own style right up alongside the best Bordeaux, burgundy, northern Rhône and Barolo. My big regret is that most Rioja producers now seem to eschew this style in favour a more blockbusting "international" character. Nevertheless, if the Viña Real 1994 is indicative, CVNE is still an address at which potentially great classic Riojas can still be obtained by those with the patience to let them realise their potential.