The wines of Rioja, the most well know red wine area of Spain are required by law to be aged for a certain length of time before release according to their designation:-

Crianza – 1 year in cask and 1 year in bottle.
Reserva – At least 1 year in cask and 2 in bottle.
Gran Reserva – At least 2 years in cask and 3 years in bottle.


I recently tasted a Reserva and Gran Reserva from CVNE under their Imperial label.

CVNE (Compañía Vinícola del Norte del España), the makers of Imperial have a history dating back to 1879 when they were established in the town of Haro. Imperial though has a shorter history but still almost dates back 100 years to the 1920’s, when it derived its name from the size of the bottles sent to the UK – an Imperial Pint. A lot has changed since then of course and today the wines have a modernity about them whilst holding onto an element of history. One fact that I was unaware of was that the architect, Aleixandre Gustave Eiffel (yes that Eiffel) designed the cellars which have no columns. That in itself gives reason to pay the winery a visit in addition to seeing it’s art exhibitions.

imp_reservaImperial Reserva 2010
A deep red colour on its way yo tawny gives a clue to this wines age. Tobacco, spice and berries dominate the nose whilst the palate is dry and takes time to open up with a rich flavour dominated by secondary flavours and hints of herbs.

Some technical information provided by the winery :-
85% Tempranillo
10% Graciano
5% Mazuelo.

Made from a selection of the best grapes from our Rioja Alta vineyards around the village of Villalba that were hand harvested in small 30 kg boxes. Before starting the alcoholic fermentation, the bunches of grapes were cooled down and kept at a low temperature for some hours in order to improve our control over fermentation without using any additives and to achieve an optimum extraction. The fermentation took place in a combination of oak vats and stainless steel tanks at controlled temperatures. The wine was then aged in both American and French new and used oak casks for two years, followed by another two years in bottle prior to its release in the market.

The evolution of the vines in 2010 was overall very good. The excellent and healthy state of vegetation was guaranteed by good weather. Harvests started more or less on average dates and took place slowly and uneventfully, making a selective harvest possible and ensuring a good ripening and a high-quality fruit.

RRP: £24.40
Stockists: Majestic, The Co-op, Waitrose, The Wine Society, Wine Rack, Hailsham Cellars, Bon Coeur Fine Wines, Brinkley’s Wines, The Wine Reserve, Vino Wines, Planet of the Grapes


imp_granreservaImperial Gran Reserva 2008
Deep red in colour you can instantly tell that this wine has been aged for longer than the 2010. It has any extra layer of complexity to it with an abundance of dark red fruit and liquorice on the palate. You get the impression that the winemakers were careful in their use of oak and not over-doing the dominating American. I do not know if all the wine was matured in both barrels or was done separately and then blended. Something to investigate. It is luscious and in no hurry to be enjoyed.

Intense ruby red colour. The nose is rich and enticing with black and red berry fruit and liquorice notes. The palate is generously fruity with toasty oak, supple tannins and savoury balsamic nuances and a long finish.

Some technical information provided by the winery :-
Tempranillo: 85%
Graciano: 10%
Mazuelo: 5%

Ageing in cask 36 months and ageing in bottle 48 months before going to market .
This wine is produced from grapes harvested in vineyards that are over 20 years old in the area around Villalba and Haro in Rioja Alta. They are bush pruned, with low yields, and hand harvested. Only the healthiest and ripest grapes are selected, and following de-stalking, the grapes are cold macerated prior to a cold temperature fermentation. Following a long maceration to achieve optimum colour and structure, the wine goes through a malolactic fermentation, to refine the wine, and to leave it with the necessary acidity to complete its American and French oak maturation, and subsequent bottle ageing prior to its release to the market.

RRP: £44.75
Stockists: The Wine Society, Vivino, Hailsham Cellars, Tanners Wines, Village Wines, The Wine Reserve

The 2004 vintage was awarded the Wine Spectators highest accolade No 1 wine in the world in 2013 which gives you an idea of this wines calibre. If this was a Bordeaux it would almost certainly be double the price so at £44.75 RRP it is a real steal. Buy some now whilst you can.