I was sent this bottle as a gift by a generous reader – thanks! He clearly realised my historical loathing for Rioja has, like the old wines I’m growing to like, mellowed considerably. Still, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this wine with its not blindingly obvious charms.
CUNE are a safe producer if you want to try decent Rioja. They have keenly priced Reservas which are widely available and made in an accessibly modern style. This Gran Reserva bottling is not excessively priced for a wine with such long and involved maturation and I’ve enjoyed the last few vintages I’ve tried.
Rioja Gran Reserva Imperial 2000, Compania Vinicola del Norte de Espana (CUNE)
Even after all the good recent experiences with this wine I’m still surprised by how nice it smells. Sure, you have to ignore all of the strange, slightly nasty aromas to like it; I still think that counts as ‘nice’. There is a obvious vanilla oak, which is drying a tad, and there is quite a lot of reasonably pretty fruit. The fruit is definitely not jammy with ripe berry skin and hints of plum. Hmmmm… this nose really exists as an electron-like wave of probability that inhabits all points, but at wildly varying frequencies, on the flavour continuum between mature Gouges Nuits-Saint-Georges and ancient Penfold’s Grange. Perhaps that sounds a smidgen bonkers but that is precisely the nature of this bonkersly good nose. It tastes good – differently good. It is quite dry, showing the effects of extended ageing and being heavily pummelled with oak, yet there is refined, elegant fruit and the whole impression is one of savoury, sedate charm. There are a few odd acetone tones, as there are on the nose, but it is not difficult to see beyond them and find yourself quite enjoying this slightly off-the-wall number. It’s more modern in style than a lot of really grand old Riojas and so shows quite a lot of energy as well as the shagged-out crapulence of decent Gran Reserva Rioja. I do like it, lawks! I suppose you could keep it for ages in your cellar – if you are WEIRD!