Membership is said to have privileges. When you are a Spanish wine nerd (aka “connoisseur”) word gets around. When my friend Dennis, wine buyer at 3rd Corner in Ocean Beach (San Diego), called with a rare opportunity to taste an array of wines from CVNE (presented by Epic Wines) of Rioja (one of Spain’s two DOCas), I jumped at the chance to partake in such a unique tasting of wines from one of Spain’s most respected bodegas.
The Compañía Vinícola del Norte de España (Northern Spanish Wine Company) is best known by its abridged form, CVNE. The bodega was created in 1879 in Haro, Rioja, by two brothers from Bilbao (Eusebio and Raimundo Real de Asúa) and a friend from Rioja (Isidro Corcuera). Originally called Corcuera, then Real de Asúa y Compañía, CVNE is still managed by the descendants of the original owners from their base in Haro.
A few dates of particular interest in the history of CVNE. In 1880 the winery started exporting to Europe and America. Between 1890 and 1909 the winery underwent construction of a new cellar as an extension to the original winery. It was designed by none other than famed French architect Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel. It is still being used today to age the Imperial label (the bodega’s flagship wine since the 1920s). In July 2004, King Juan Carlos I inaugurated the Viña Real winery at Laguardia (since this time it has been a separate company and winery). Finally, after almost 130 years since the company’s creation, it is still being run by the same family.
CVNE boasts three extremely successful wineries as part of its family: CVNE, Viña Real, and Viñedos del Contino. Speaking from firsthand experience, all three of these wineries produce amazing wines. As mentioned previously, CVNE was founded in 1879 and today still sits on its original site in Haro (Rioja Alta). As mentioned previously, one of the winery’s claims to fame (besides its cellar-worthy wines) is the Eiffel Cellar. The Real de Asúa and Imperial wines are made in this cellar. The Viña Real (“Royal Vineyard”) winery is located just 10 minutes from Logroño in Elciego and uses the latest technology to produce unique wines of tremendous quality. Finally, Viñedos del Contino was established in 1973, a joint venture between the CVNE and Contino estate owners. Located in Rioja Alavesa, the property boasts some of the oldest Graciano vines.
A number of amazing wines are made in these three bodegas. Lady Luck accompanied me into the restaurant that afternoon as I enjoyed five labels from the three wineries ranging in age from 1 year to 38 years and retail prices from approximately $13 to as high as $500+! Following are the wines served along with a delicious array of paired foods (an “*” denotes my favorite selections during the tasting):
2010 Cune Rosado
1979 Cune Reserva*
1999 Imperial Gran Reserva
1990 Imperial Gran Reserva*
1980 Imperial Gran Reserva*
1976 Imperial Gran Reserva
1987 Viña Real Gran Reserva
1981 Viña Real Gran Reserva*
1978 Viña Real Gran Reserva
1973 Viña Real Gran Reserva*
2009 Cune Monopole (the first white wine ever bottled in Rioja)*
2004 Viña Real Reserva
2004 Cune Imperial Reserva
2005 Contino Reserva
2006 Contino Reserva
2007 Contino Viña del Olivo*
It is likely quite obvious from the foregoing list that I was not in want for great wine during this tasting. True. Incidentally, just because a wine is labeled “Reserva” or “Gran Reserva” does not mean it is an exceptional wine. I would say, at least from my tasting experience, that the wines of CVNE live up to their “aging” label. If you are lucky enough to come across one of these wines I would not hesitate to encourage you purchase it. A good many of these wines are available around the country through online retailers (as well as at the 3rd Corner stores in San Diego). I have no doubt that the special occasion you are preparing to celebrate – whether it is a wedding, anniversary, or milestone birthday – would only be elevated with the accompaniment of a CVNE wine.
Life is short. Drink Spanish wine!