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Wine Advocate, October 2020,
No 2013 was produced, as it was a very challenging year in Haro. So, from the 2012 I tasted last time, we jumped to the 2014 Imperial Gran Reserva, an icon among classical Rioja. The grapes for this blend of 85% Tempranillo, 10% Graciano and 5% Mazuelo were picked during the first half of October at a low 13.5% alcohol and were fermented in small oak vats followed by malolactic in concrete and two years in barrel. The bottles are kept for at least 36 months before they are released. As the Imperial Reserva, the style of this wine has to be preserved (they can innovate in the new Asúa range). There is a developed and subtle nose reminiscent of petrol (is it mineral?), hints of iodine and sweet spices. The palate is powerful and still a little tannic, as the wine was released even earlier because they skipped one vintage. Serious, austere, faithful to its character. Drink Date 2022 - 2034
Historic Rioja house, which includes the estates of Vina Real, Contino, Imperial, and Cune. They pride themselves on incorporating Rioja's tradition and modern innovation. C.V.N.E. stands for Compania Vinicola del Norte de Espana (The Northern Spanish Wine Company). It was established in 1879 and is still run by the same family today, now in its fifth generation.
By the far the best known of Spain's wine regions is Rioja, which takes its name from the rio(river) Oja, a tributary of the river Ebro. Lying in the north of the country, along the Ebro valley, the area is sheltered from rain-bearing Atlantic winds by the dramatic Sierra de Cantabria to the north and west. The hilly vineyards are interspersed with orchards, poplars and eucalyptus trees. Rioja is further divided into three sub-regions - Rioja Alta, Rioja Alavesa and Rioja Baja. The first two are best regarded, with vines planted on cool slopes with clay and limestone soils. The permitted grape varieties for Rioja are tempranillo, which is grown extensively in Rioja Alta and Alavesa and will form the backbone of all the best wines, garnacha, widespread in Rioja Baja and used to add body to the blend, and mazuelo (carignan) and graciano, both grown in miniscule proportions. The key to understanding Rioja is the technique used to mature the wine. Unlike most other areas of Europe, American oak barrels are used which give the wines their characteristic soft vanilla, almost coconuty flavour. Historically the wines were aged for periods far longer than legally required, until all the fruit character had died down and the end result was a light, tawny-coloured wine dominated by oak flavours. Although there are still supporters of this classic style, far more producers are making wines in a more modern way, allowing the dark berry fruit flavours to burst through balanced by a more judicious use of oak ageing and often opting for French oak now.