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2013 – Imperial Gran Reserva number 1 Top 100 Wine Spectator!

Imperial Gran Reserva 2004 is named #1 Wine of the Year by the prestigious Wine Spectator Magazine in its list of top 100 Wines in 2013. This is the first time in history that a Spanish wine is recognized as the number 1 worldwide.



CVNE buys historic Cava producer

Compañia Vinicola del Norte de España (CVNE), one of Rioja’s oldest family-controlled wineries, has announced that it has bought Cava DO producer Roger Goulart. Financial details were not disclosed.

‘We’ve been looking at wineries outside of Rioja for a while and are thrilled to announce that Roger Goulart will join our portfolio,’ said CVNE’s CEO, Victor Urrutia. ‘We plan to keep the historical and cultural legacy of the winery alive.’

Roger Goulart’s history stretches back as far as 1882, when its founders, the Canal family, formed part of a new wave of Penedès winemakers producing traditional method sparkling wines, which became the signature style of Cava.

The Cava bodega will now join four Rioja producers — Cune, Imperial, Viña Real and Continuo — within CVNE’s collection of wineries.

Although it’s now a public company, CVNE is still run by descendants of its original founders, brothers Eusebio and Raimundo Real de Asúa, who established it in 1879.


CARO at CVNE” Anthony Caro (1924 -2013) is one of the most important British sculptors of the 20th Century.

The selection comprises a total of 23 sculptures by Caro, twelve of which are on display indoors, with the remainder at various locations around the buildings and gardens of the winery.

In the music of his sculpture Caro convokes and evokes. Concepts and images converge and intertwine in their own identity. Caro’s visual experience is always accumulative, capable of fermenting like good wine and emerging when its presence is required.

Lauded as the greatest British sculptor of his generation, Anthony Caro is one of the most important British sculptors of the 20th Century. His work, characterised by assemblages of metal using ‘found’ industrial objects has been presented and collected at major museums worldwide, including: the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Museum of Fine Arts, Bilbao, Spain: the Institute of Modern Art, Valencia, Spain; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo; the Tate Gallery Museum, London, the National Portrait Gallery, London; three museums in Pas-de-Calais; France to accompany the 2008 inauguration of Caro’s ‘Chapel of Light’ situated in the Church of St Jean Baptiste in Bourbourg, Northern France; and the Museo Correr, Venice, Italy.

Cune Rioja Imperial Gran Reserva 2004 garners No. 1 spot on Wine Spectator’s 2013 Top 100 List, a first for Spain

The number one wine on the Wine Spectator Top 100 of 2013 is a red Spanish wine from Rioja:  CVNE / Cune Rioja Imperial Gran Reserva 2004 – 95 points.  This is the first time in the history of the Top 100 that a wine from Spain has been the top wine of the year.  

We noted in our previous article that Rioja as a wine producing region did remarkably well on the Top 100 list for 2013.  Five of the nine Spanish wines on the list were from Rioja.



Vina Real Gran Reserva 1959 Parker 100 points

1959 was one of the best vintages in the history of Rioja, even though 1958 was classified as excellent and 1959 "only" received a very good score. Nowadays most of the wines from 1959 are still in very good shape. I have been lucky enough to drink the 1959 Viña Real Gran Reserva before and some bottles had been flirting with perfection. The one that sparkled this tasting note clearly was. The wine was not bottled until June 1968, nearly nine years after the harvest. Motown Records was founded in 1959, the year when a chartered plane transporting musicians Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper piloted by Roger Peterson went down in foggy conditions near Clear Lake, Iowa, killing all four on board. The tragedy was later termed "The Day the Music Died," popularized in Don McLean's 1972 song "American Pie." Fidel Castro became Premier of Cuba, the Barbie doll made its debut and the original Mini Cooper car was launched. The film "Ben-Hur," starring Charlton Heston, was released and became a great hit, eventually winning 11 Academy Awards. The American President was Dwight D. Eisenhower. Imagine how they harvested those grapes in Rioja. This was an amazing vintage and this was a superb bottle, all complexity and elegance, really developed, with great acidity. It is really long and balanced, with surprising balsamic, youthful aromas. Harmonic, young but developed, intense but light, somehow contradictory, but everyone was in agreement: glasses were soon empty, the best sign for a favorite wine. Judging by this bottle, this wine could go on, and on, and on and on...Anticipated maturity: 2015-2035.

I think context is very important in wine, and when I drink old bottles I always think how the world was when they harvested the grapes: what happened that year, how people lived and how they made the wine. It's sometimes mind boggling to drink some very old wines, a real privilege which, I often say, is as close as you can get to time travel. So I've given some context to all these wines. I'm told nobody reads the tasting notes and people only look at the scores, let's see if we get some reaction on these. Even though the tasting was excellent, I expected even more; we had too many corked wines and some vintages had shown better on other occasions. But such is the case with old wines, there are no great vintages anymore, only great bottles. Highlights of the tasting were 1959, 1947 and 1938. On top of those, there was one outstanding and perfect wine that day, and, as I might not find better excuse to publish a note on it than now, I've included it here. It's an historical wine, a one-off, semi-sweet white produced at the end of the Spanish Civil War, a wine impossible to replicate, fruit of impossible circumstances, a wine I've had the luck to drink and share with many people on a number of occasions and which never fails to impress everyone. The perfect 1939 CVNE Rioja Blanco Semi Dulce Corona is a mythical wine!

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In 1879, two brothers decided to set up a business in the recently flourishing trade of the wine business. C.V.N.E., Compañía Vinicola del Norte de España (The Northern Spanish Wine Company) or la Cuné, as it is commonly known in Haro, was created.


Cuné currently counts with 125 years developing tradition, prestige, innovation and quality. Cuné’s 125th anniversary has been celebrated by the inauguration of the Viña Real Bodega in the heart of the Rioja Alavesa, in addition to the Real de Asúa project in Rioja Alta, Haro.


Although Cuné is still controlled by the direct descendants of the founding family (fifth generation), the company has been quoted in the Madrid stock exchange since 1997.

Cuné has been producing wines from the Rioja region since the 19th century, respecting the traditions it helped to establish.


The Cuné winery in Haro, is made up of a group of buildings, mostly from the 19th century and  arranged around a courtyard surrounded by pavilions for the purpose of wine production, aging, and bottling.Cuné is present in all of Spain’s highest regarded wine lists. It was one of the first wineries of Rioja to bottle its own wines.In 1900, the winery had an extraordinary aging capacity of 80,000 bottles, which was most unusual at the time, as most wineries were selling their wines as soon as possible. Although Cuné is 125 years old, one of its features has always been to innovate in the production process.


At the end of the 19th Century, the company acquired a pasteurizer “Malvoisin”, a revolutionary machine that placed Cvne at the pinnacle of innovation in the wine world. 

On the16th of  July 1941, the  new vinification plant was inaugurated and baptised with the name “El Carmen”. It was the first vinification plant, made out of epoxy lined concrete, which was vastly copied. Nowadays, after the stainless steel boom, this material is having a renaissance due to its high neutrality and stable temperatures...

On the 12th of October 1989: The state of the art vinification plant was inaugurated and baptised with the name “El Pilar”. This winery was the first large production plant to handle unfermented grape juice with real care. This was done by using small stainless steel tanks which are elevated  by a crane in the style of gravity and therefore positioned on the top of a fermentation tank and flushed in order to break the cap of skins floating on the top of a fermentation tank. This practise eliminated the use of pumps and hoses in the vinification winery. Cuné pioneered and developed this new revolutionary concept, which has later been copied by other wineries around the world.


In 1981, the first barrel fermented white Rioja’s were made by Basilio Izquierdo, Cuné’s head winemaker. These experiments gave way to the birth of Viña Real Barrel Fermented  White.


1997-2000: Cuné develops an innovative method for piling casks in shelves, allowing the winemaker an easier access to rack wines and to check the progress of the aging evolution of wines.

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Cuné farms half of its grape crush. The remainder is purchased from long term growers from the Rioja Alta province. Basilio Izquierdo, has been the head winemaker of  the Cuné group of wineries since 1973, with Maria Larrea as second in command in Cune, Haro.

The first wine of this cellar was named after its initials. At the beginning a red ‘clarete’ wine was made as a fine wine in the style of the Bordeaux “Claret” produced by the great chateaux’s of the Medoc.

The red grape varieties planted are: Tempranillo, Garnacha, Mazuela and Graciano. The white grape varieties planted are: Viura, Garnacha blanca (white) and Malvasía.


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The first wine of this winery was named after its initials. At the beginning a red ‘clarete’ wine was made as a fine wine in the style of the Bordeaux “Claret” produced by the great chateaux’s of the Medoc.


This was the style of wine demanded by producers and  French ‘négociants’ from the end of the 19th century, who saw their vines ruined by phylloxera and therefore needed a substitute to keep up with  international demand.

This wine, formerly known as ‘Tercer Año’ or  ‘3rd year’, is today called ‘Crianza’. Its success motivated the Cuné Reserva creation.

Cuné Reserva, is a fine wine from Rioja Alta of which at least 2 years have been spent in oak barrels and one in bottle prior to its release. Nowadays under the Cuné brand we find the Crianza, Reserva, Rosé and White wines. Cuné also produced white wines from the early days of its foundation, with the ‘Cuné blanco’ predominantly produced from the Viura grape variety. This wine is a young, fresh and smooth white. The ‘Cuné rosado’ is produced entirely from red Garnacha grape variety.







Imperial is one of the big brands of Spain. It is a true classic in Rioja and was first produced  in the twenties. Its name comes after a special bottling for the English market, in a measure called ‘Pinta

Imperial’ or ‘Imperial Pint’ (an Imperial pint, half a litre approximately).


From 1928 these wines could be found at the top restaurants and shops all over Spain. It has always been characterised for its very high and constant quality, in every vintage.


The Imperial range includes a ‘Reserva’ and  a ‘Gran Reserva’ and is only produced in exceptional vintages.


The ‘Reserva’ rests a minimum of 24 months in oak barrels and one year in bottle, with the ‘Gran Reserva’ spending an extra 12 months in oak barrels and bottle, this adds smoothness, aroma, maturity and harmony to the wine.






This brand was created in 1915 to change the style of rustic and oxidised wines formerly produced in Rioja from the Viura grape variety. Since its arrival it has become a classic fresh white Rioja.





The success of the sweet white wines of France, motivated Cuné to produce this wine in the beginning of the thirties. From its arrival, this wine has been made in a semi-sweet style in order to accompany desserts.





The Cuné vineyards in the area of Villalba are more than 40 years of age, it is from these vineyards that we obtain the grapes for Real de Asúa. Real de Asúa was first produced in 1994 as a tribute to the founding members of Cuné.


The wine Real de Asúa is made in the most selective way and for this reason, this wine is vinified in it’s own little cellar in Cuné.


The grapes are hand picked and transported to the cellar in small crates. Upon its arrival to the cellar, the grapes are placed in a refrigeration  room prior to its rigorous  hand sorting on the newly

installed selection tables.


The final crushed grape juice is then fermented in small oak vats. Once the fermentation is complete, this wine is gravity fed into new French oak casks.




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12 different wines with 110 vintages


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Wine Moments

Here you can see wine moments from tastingbook users.    or    to see wine moments from your world.

 Luis Gutierrez, Wine Writer (Spain)  tasted  18 wines  from  C.V.N.E /Cune . In a tasting of  46 wines 

Vina Real Reserva 1883 / This is the year when they built the big winery at Riscal. The fruit came from ungrafted vines, as phylloxera did not arrive in Rioja until 1899. The bottle had never been recorked, and the cork was clearly branded with the vintage and was surprisingly long, especially for being that old. According to Francisco Hurtado de Amézaga the showing of this wine is typical of the pre-phylloxera wines.

Amber rim, with a deep orange colour, like the old traditional roof tiles in the Spanish villages. Ethereal. Quintessential Rioja. Forest floor and cold bonfire notes. Roast beef too. Constantly changing, up and down, it comes and goes and starts all over again. Because it is alive. Fragile but strong. Complexity, balance, elegance and power. Perfection. Sweet. A world class wine. A privilege. (LG)

2m 24d ago

 Christer Byklum , Wine Writer (Norway)  tasted  1 wines  from  C.V.N.E /Cune . In a tasting of  26 wines 

Opus One 2008 / Deep ruby, youthful, cassis, coffee, blueberries. Softer texture, feels very elegant even as it is so young, fresh acidity, ripe tannins, balanced, long length. 94

2m 25d ago

 Luis Gutierrez, Wine Writer (Spain)  tasted  7 wines  from  C.V.N.E /Cune . In a tasting of  26 wines 

Bodegas Muga / Torre Muga 2015 / I tasted a super young 2016 Torre Muga that had only been in bottle for some four months. But even so, the year seems to be approachable and open. Even if the wine has concentration and power, it has great balance and freshness. And it's drinkable now, even if it's going to get polished with some more time in bottle, where it should have a long life. This was the most modern of the wines in the portfolio, but I think the modern and traditional styles have been converging over the years, and nowadays there is not a huge difference between them. And for its age, it feels quite round, and it doesn't have edges or any harsh tannins; the oak is present but it's neatly integrated in the wine. It has to be one of the finest vintages for Torre Muga. 36,000 bottles produced. It was bottled in early 2019.

Muga own close to 350 hectares of vineyards, as they think that even if you pay very high prices for grapes, you don't get the same quality as you get from your own vineyards. Some ten years ago, they had maybe 130 or 140 hectares of vineyards, and they are going to continue buying quality vineyards when they become available. So, they have increased their vineyards but production is stable. 2018 has been a variable vintage, with enough water and a tendency for high yields that they control, but they will probably produce Crianza/Reserva and perhaps Selección Especial, so no Torre Muga, Prado Enea or Aro. In 2017, they only produced their Crianza/Reserva. They are very happy with 2015 and 2016, even if they are different.

5m 9d ago

 Luis Gutierrez, Wine Writer (Spain)  tasted  4 wines  from  C.V.N.E /Cune . In a tasting of  20 wines 

I tasted the 2006 Único again, and it's clearly the best Único produced in the last few years, to which I don't find much logic, as on paper 2004 and 2005 were better years in Ribera del Duero. However it is, the 2006 is a fantastic modern Vega Sicilia in the making, powerful and clean, still very young and marked by the élevage with a whiff of American oak and a creamy texture in the palate. It should age very well for a very long time. I'd wait to pull the cork, even if it's drinkable and quite showy already. This is the current vintage in 2018, even if the 2007 and 2008 were released before it and even before the 2005. In 2019 they will release the 2009. 93,993 bottles, 2,552 magnums, 165 double magnums and six imperials were produced. Drink 2020-2035.

7m 6d ago

 Christer Byklum , Wine Writer (Norway)  tasted  2 wines  from  C.V.N.E /Cune . In a tasting of  22 wines 

Vega Sicilia Unico 2006 / Ruby. Blueberries, vanilla, dark berries, liquorice, scented, almost floral behind, layered and nuanced. Fresh acidity, ripe tannins, dark fruity, spices, liquorice, layered and detailed, intense and long. 96p

10m 25d ago

 Christer Byklum , Wine Writer (Norway)  tasted  1 wines  from  C.V.N.E /Cune . In a tasting of  80 wines 

OK, the first five Champagne's was Friday evening, the rest of these wines was Saturday, from morning until night. This was a day and a weekend I will remember for the rest of my life! Nearly all were served blind.

11m 21d ago

 C.V.N.E /Cune  has updated producer and wine information

1y 5m ago

 Maria Larrea, Wine Maker (Spain)  tasted  13 wines  from  C.V.N.E /Cune . In a tasting of  13 wines 

C.V.N.E Imperial Gran Reserva 2011 / Intense garnet color with bluish notes on the meniscus. In the nose we discover a perfect aromatic balance where the fruits of the forest and licorice stand out along with the aromas from pine, cigar leaf and sweet spices. Through the palate it is marked by a soft tannin followed by a long and elegant finish, which leads us to a balsamic aftertaste leaving us the memory of a round and balanced wine able to be paired with cheeses, red meat, game and fatty fish, even to take simply with someone else. Service temperature 18C.

A typical vintage with unequal and heterogeneous maturation due to water stress and the lack of temperature contrasts between day and night. These conditions have strengthened the need to make a good selection in the vineyard and in the arrival of the grapes in the winery. The main characteristic of this harvest has been the excellent sanity of the grapes and the development of fermentations without incidences. Although the ripening has been a week ahead of previous years, the wines obtained are well structured, with high polyphenol contents and good color intensities, qualities that augur high quality wines.

1y 5m ago

 Pekka Nuikki / Founder of the Fine Wine Magazines, Pro (Finland)  tasted  1 wines  from  C.V.N.E /Cune . In a tasting of  22 wines 

Château Latour 1911 / 94 points / A hot summer and drought that continued until late in the fall produced many superb, though quite harsh wines in Bordeaux. Latour has been regarded as an exceptionally soft and calm wine at least compared to the other first growth wines. None the less at least the wine I now got to taste had kept its backbone and structure well, but was still a gentle and sophisticated wine.

Decanted 30 minutes. This is my second Latour from this rare vintage, and it had improved a lot over the first one. As a Latour it was still surprisingly light and delicate, if tasted blind I would have thought the wine´s origin to be Pomerol. As the previous bottle already started to lose some of its fine qualities after 30 minutes from decanting, this one just started to breed. It has a good balance and full, opulent and vivid taste. Lovely smooth fruit on top of a tannic grip. This time it was now complex and thriving enough to provide real interest  and quality. As has been said many times before: there are no good wines, only good bottles. 

1y 6m ago

 Achim Becker / Wineterminator.com, Wine Writer (Germany)  tasted  2 wines  from  C.V.N.E /Cune . In a tasting of  19 wines 

"Grosse Weine aus kleinen Flaschen" like Latour 1928, 1961, 1982 and 1990 etc.

1y 7m ago

 Aaron Nix-Gomez / Wine Historian, Pro (United States)  tasted  9 wines  from  C.V.N.E /Cune . In a tasting of  15 wines 

Across all five of the vintages we tasted, the Viña Real Reserva Especial and Gran Reserva all demonstrate deep aromas, full-bodied flavor, and extra complexity from earth and animale notes. The Imperial are brighter, more structured with noticeable acidity and more control over the flavors.  All of the bottles have aged very well with a general increase in liveliness as the wines became older.

The pair from 1976 showed good, complex flavor yet came across as fully mature.  The pair from 1973 exhibit less complexity yet are fresh and lively in the mouth.  I personally would rather drink the 1976s for the flavor but many preferred the 1973s for their condition.  Both wines from the 1970 vintage demonstrated a significant increase in complexity and energy.  The 1970 Viña Real is deep, earthy, mouth filling, and ethereal with a level of energy that made me pause.  The 1970 Imperial leans towards a core of fruit propelled by acidity, leaving a texture in the mouth.  The 1966 pair are lighter in flavor.  The 1966 Viña Real offers up more flavor than the 1966 Imperial but both wines should be drunk up.

It is a remarkably testament to the greatness of the 1964 vintage and the capable hand of Ezequiel Garcia, that the wines from 1964 are the most energetic and long-lived of all we tasted.  That is no small feat considering the 1964 Imperial was served from two half-bottles!  The aromas are to dream of, the flavors are a bit closely played but the mouthfeel is oily and luxurious.  My favorite wine of the night is the 1964 Viña Real.  It is mouth filling with complexity yet never weighs down the palate.  The interplay of flavor, texture, and acidity are remarkable.

We are fortunate in that not one of our bottles was bad allowing the personality of Viña Real and Imperial to shine through all of the vintages tasted.  If you have yet to taste mature CVNE you must set your sights on the 1964 Viña Real Reserva Especial.  If that is too expensive, the 1970 Viña Real Gran Reserva is a relative bargain.  These two wines in particular should be tried by all lovers of mature red wine.

CVNE is still run by family members including Maria Urrita Ybarra, Director of Marketing, who answered many of my questions and provided the historic images used in this post. I must also thank Jesús Madrazo, son of Jose Madrazo, 5th generation of the founding brothers, and former Technical Director of Contino, who kindly replied to all of my emails as well.  Finally, I thank my friend Mannie Berk, founder of The Rare Wine Co., whose careful acquisition of these bottles enabled this tasting to take place.

1y 10m ago

 C.V.N.E /Cune  has updated producer and wine information

2y 2m ago

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