CVNE Viña Real Rioja Gran Reserva 1976
Barcelona is a long way to travel for a bottle of Rioja, so rest assured that when I picked this bottle up from one of the excellent wine shops in Barcelona airport, it was not my sole reason for travelling there. I had just spent an enjoyable few days in the city, and whilst waiting for my return flight I found plenty of interest in the aforementioned shops; not only an impressive selection of Rioja, from a bevy of top producers, in vintages both young and mature, but also a handsome selection of wines from elsewhere, especially Bordeaux, including Petrus, Latour, Cheval-Blanc and Lafite. And many more besides.
One of three bottles that caught my eye and which I subsequently purchased, this is one of the flagship wines from the Compañía Vinícola del Norte de España, more conveniently referred to as CVNE. It makes an attractive pair with the Imperial, CVNE's other gran reserva stalwart. The Viña Real range was created in the 1940s, and includes a reserva and gran reserva, the latter comprising 95% Tempranillo and 5% Graciano, always a selection of fruit from the Rioja Alavesa region. It is fermented in stainless steel, with pumping over, before seeing the traditional Rioja treatment of oak-ageing, although in a mix of both French and American wood. It is often said to have a greater finesse than the more tannic Imperial, and this correlates in some small way with the bottle shapes chosen - a Burgundy style for the Viña Real, a tall-shouldered Bordeaux style for the Imperial. These are both firmly in the traditional style, and I love them; they make a great match for roast lamb, as do many mature Riojas.
The bottle was in very good condition, with no real concerns under the capsule. The cork, although soft, was extracted without too much difficulty; the bottom fell away into a few small pieces, but they came out with the corkscrew rather than falling into the wine, so the whole process was quite simple. I decanted the wine immediately, with just a little sediment coming into the decanter. This never really bothers me, as long as the coarser elements are removed, but there was more sediment here than I am used to with old Rioja. I was pouring and drinking within the hour. It has a wonderful colour, still quite deep in appearance, mahogany-red core, with a tawny, golden brown rim. The nose certainly has complexity starting off with some volatility, in the shape of some highly polished wood and leather, then roasted, macerated fruits. Then follow aromas of sweetly cooked meats, tobacco, cigars and even a little coffee which is appealing, although I tend to associate this aroma with young wines rather than old. The palate has finesse; it is full, with soft, chalky tannins having a background presence, behind a fine texture and wave after wave of complex flavours, like those characteristics found on the nose. It is warm, balanced, firm and still with quite a little grip, but elegant, rather silky and certainly delicious, with its broad, complete, harmonious presence. It ends with an admirably warm, lingering finish. This is really very, very good indeed. I can now look forward with anticipation to one of my other purchases, the corresponding 1976 Imperial. 19/20 (14/5/07)