2005 CVNE, Rioja Imperial Gran Reserva
Cune (actually CVNE: Compañia Vinicola del Norte de España, or Northern Spanish Wine Company) was founded in 1879 by two brothers who loved the wines of France and Alsace and wanted to produce wines of similar quality back home in Spain. The company is still managed by their direct descendants, and it has three wineries, all in the Rioja region. Cune is one of these, and it is one of the few Rioja wineries known for both its excellent red and white wines. In fact, we recently put their estate white in our Collector’s Club. Their Imperial Gran Reserva is generally regarded as one of the top old school wines in Rioja. It is produced from a careful selection of grapes harvested from some of the highest vineyards in the Rioja Alta region. It is a classic blend of 85% Tempranillo, 10% Graciano (for aromatics), and 5% Mazuelo (Rioja’s name for Carignano). It has the smoky, rustic nose of older Spanish wines and is medium-bodied and elegant on the palate: “an impressively powerful wine which manages to feel light on its feet,” in the words of Robert Parker. The oak is well integrated with the supple tannins of the Tempranillo and the savory balsamic notes typical of Rioja. It could benefit from a couple of years in your cellar and could develop for another ten years beyond that. It would be a perfect complement to many classic dishes of northern Spain: lamb stew, roasted red meats, game, mature cheese, and Jamón Ibérico. Of course, it’s extremely limited, as Parker gave it a ridiculously high score, but we managed to get enough for the club and a little extra. It’s $70.
2010 Dirler-Cadé, Riesling Lieu-dit Bollenberg
This small estate was founded in the same decade as CVNE, when Jean Dirler started making wine in 1871 in the tiny village of Bergholtz, in the Vosge Mountains about 25 kilometers south of Colmar in Alsace. And, as with CVNE, the winery is still in the hands of direct descendants, in this case the fifth generation of Dirlers, Jean and Ludivine. In 1998, they began converting their vineyards to bio-dynamic agriculture, and their holdings doubled in size to 18 hectares in 2000, when Ludivine inherited her family’s estate, Domaine Hell-Cadé, in nearby Guebwiller. Some of their sites (Bollenberg is one of nine separate parcels) are so steep that they have to use horse and plough to till them. The grapes from each site are crushed as whole clusters, aged on their lees for nine to twelve months, and vinified separately. This is a classic dry Alsatian Riesling, clean, refreshing, and citrusy, with a touch of white pepper. It is one of the few whites outside of Austria that is actually a good match for fresh asparagus, and would also be perfect with goat cheese. It’s $28, ready to drink, and in reasonably good supply.