The Tasting Panel magazine

June 2010

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STEVEN SPURRIER’S LETTER FROM LONDON Ten Decades of CVNE Imperial V ictor Urrutia, the fifth generation to be in charge of the Compañia Vinícola del Norte de España (CVNE), founded by his ancestors in 1879 and which still oper- ates from the original site in Haro, home to the oldest wineries of the Rioja Alta, was in London recently to present ten decades of the family’s most famous Rioja Gran Reserva. The name Imperial comes from the first recorded bottling that was made for the English market in a bottle called the pinta imperial, or impe- rial pint. PHOTO: DECANTER The grapes have always come from the company’s own vineyards, where the soils are rich in iron, limestone and clay, and where the vines have a minimum average age of 25 years. While CVNE’s Reservas spend a minimum of 24 months in barrel and several years in bottle before being released for sale, the Gran Reserva usually remains even longer both in cask and in bottle to provide additional smoothness and harmony. In his introduction to the tasting, Victor Urrutia stressed that he looked for three things in Imperial—layers of depth, complex- ity and a sense of origin—without which he felt that a wine cannot be called “fine.” The company policy is that no wines are ever re-corked, for by refreshing and re- corking, the intrinsic originality of the wine is altered. The wines we tasted fully justified this. While the younger wines were bottled in their fourth or fifth years, the older ones spent over a decade in cask. 2004 (bottled October 2008) Deep young red; fine red fruits with some florality; expres- sive Tempranillo fruit with oak to round it out and good natural acidity; really good pure sweet middle and a firm finish to see it through to 2030. 17/20 1995 (bottled May 2000) Deep colour, mature rim; slightly earthy, hot stone nose; the warm earthiness continues on the palate; vigourous and fresh due to natural acidity; mature now and will last well. 18/20 1987 (bottled April 1991) Fine robust colour, fading on the rim but younger looking 20 / the tasting panel / june 2010 than the 1995; fine, earthy but still red fruit nose; lovely middle sweetness, like a fine Châteauneuf-du-Pape but more lifted, lissom fruit and perfect acidity; superb over the coming decade. 19/20 1970 (bottled March 1975) Fine tawny red, very good middle depth and brightness for 40 years old; faintly tawny port nose of sweet red fruits; warm and quite robust still, acidity showing and without the natural richness of Tempranillo it would be drying out; elegant finish but not for keeping. 17/20 1968 (bottled April 1974) Very good deep red-mahogany with tawny rim; rich and slightly figgy/chocolaty warm and spicy nose; firm fruit with more sweetness and vigour than the 1970; still pure and lively. 18/20 1953 (bottled December 1966) Very deep colour; fuller and younger than the 1968 with the same tawny rim, amazing for 57 years old; tight concentration, making up in firmness what it lacks in warmth, yet it has a fine sweet middle and still fresh despite its obvious maturity. 17.5/20 1947 (bottled August 1960) Still full, dark middle with tawny rim, superb for its age; warm and spicy nose with all the richness of rich years; many-layered concentration of fruit and all still very much there. 18/20 1939 (bottled May 1951) Fading colour; slight coffee-bean nose, but still a touch of vanilla sweetness while the acidity provides freshness; on the lean side now, but still good. 16/20 1928 (bottled February 1939) Superb colour, firm red with a tawny rim, could be a wine from the 1970s; warm nose with hints of violets and roses and lifted red fruits, good acidity to keep the fruit fresh, tannins still not dominant; a very fine vineyard expression. 19/20 1917 (no bottling date) Tawny red, still bright and fresh-looking, incredible for its age; concentrated red fruits are there with a hint of roses, lovely texture on the palate, polished depth over high acidity and all framed by the vineyard. 18/20

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