The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Expert Picks: CVNE and Vega-Sicilia

Posted on | May 13, 2015 | Written by David Gwo | No Comments

David Gwo 12.8.14Spain is one of my favorite countries for wine and you can’t talk about Spanish red wine without mentioning their famed red grape—Tempranillo. Produced in many different appellations throughout Spain, Tempranillo goes by a number of different names. Depending on the region, it can be called Tinto de Toro in Toro, Tinto del Pais in Ribera del Duero, or even Tinto Roriz in Portugal—but it’s all Tempranillo to us! Like Nebbiolo from Piedmont or Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley, when Tempranillo is grown outside of Spain, it just doesn’t possess the same majesty.

Rioja and Ribera del Duero are the places to look for the best value-driven, cellar-worthy, and collectible Tempranillo wines. That said, don’t let the term “value-driven” fool you; there is nothing diminutive about Gran Reserva Riojas and Riberas in terms of quality. I would gladly include a Gran Reserva in a line-up of vintage Bordeaux, Barolo, or Brunello, and it would unquestionably hold its own. Many of the best Gran Reserva Riojas can be bought for around $50 upon release and they will age effortlessly for a decade or more. Sounds too good to be true, right? Why is Tempranillo so inexpensive compared to the other big wines of Europe? Up until relatively recently, Spanish wines weren’t on wine collector’s radars (at least to the same extent as a region like Bordeaux)—remember that even a decade ago Bordeaux was a fraction of the cost it is today—but Spanish wines are quickly gaining traction. Stock up while you can!

The two producers I feature today, one from Rioja and one from Ribera, are icons. The first is Compañía Vinícola del Norte de España, a.k.a. CVNE, from Rioja. CVNE has received huge publicity recently, receiving The Wine Spectators #1 Wine of the Year in 2013 for their 2004 CVNE Imperial Gran Reserva. Prior to this coveted award, this estate has always been one of Rioja’s most renowned, historic estates. The other selection is undoubtedly Spain’s most collectible red wine, and it comes from Vega Sicilia, who bottles two flagship wines. One is called Unico Reserva Especial, which is released in every year as a blend of multiple previous vintages. The other is single vintage Unico, where all the grapes come from a single year. These two wines represent the pinnacle of Tempranillo in Ribera.

CVNE 2007 Imperial Gran Reserva $69.99
The 2007 Imperial Gran Reserva won’t have the same longevity as the 2004 or 2001, but that’s probably a good thing. While 2001 and 2004 are going to be very long-lived wines that ideally should be aged for another decade, the 2007 possesses all the essential characteristics of these iconic vintages, but without the burly structure that would keep it from being enjoyed now. I always get distinct notes of cherry, vanilla, and dill pickle from Rioja, which I know sounds weird, but these wines always deliver on the palate. Silky, polished, and delicious, this is a wine that I could have again and again.

Vega-Sicilia 2004 Ribera del Duero Unico $399.00

This iconic blend of Tempranillo and Bordeaux varietals isn’t exactly “value-driven,” but with the title of the most recognized and collectible wine coming out of Spain, it shouldn’t be. These vintage-specific Unico bottlingss have as much longevity as the top French and Italian wines, and they develop a vast array of aromatic and flavor complexity as they mature. 2004 was an incredible year for Tempranillo in Rioja and Ribera, and this wine demonstrates why it holds its title of most collectible wine from Spain. This 2004 is a baby; it’s definitely a cellar choice, so be patient!

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