Thursday, August 06, 2009

Wine of the Week - López de Heredia Viña Cubillo

What do you think of when you think of López de Heredia, the great master of Rioja? I think of very old and very beautiful wines, Reservas and Gran Reservas that are first released to the retail market when they are 10-20 years old. Perhaps this is why it took me so long to try their entry-level red wine, Viña Cubillo. But try it I did about 6 months ago, and I feel like a dope. It's easy to focus only on a producer's best wines. But I shouldn't have overlooked Viña Cubillo. It is a great wine in its own right, at about $25. Think of Cubillo the way you might think of a Michel Lafarge or a Leroy Bourgogne.

Cubillo is technically a Crianza, meaning that it must age for at least 2 years, at least 6 months of that time must be in oak. López de Heredia, as they do with all of their wines, ages Cubillo longer than is required - about 3 years in oak and then another few years in the bottle. And Cubillo, like all López de Heredia wines, is released only when they think it is ready for drinking. The blend is always the same: 65% Tempranillo, 25% Garnacho (Grenache), and 5% each of Carignan and something called Mazuelo.

2002 López de Heredia Rioja Crianza Viña Cubillo, $25, Polaner Selections. BrooklynLady thought this was a Burgundy wine when she first smelled and tasted. I completely understand that assessment - the wine a lovely mingling of bright red fruit and earth. The nose really soars, fragrant and full of energy. Vibrant and juicy on the palate, very intense and fruit forward but with a compact and lean frame. The current vintage is the 2003, and I think that another year plus of bottle age has been great for the 2002. With just a little air time, the aromas are still fruity, but become very stately and mature, a woven basket of fruit on a fine mahogany dining table. We drank this wine with a simple but wholly satisfying meal - cauliflower cooked slowly with pimentón and garlic, and a scallion omelet. The pimentón and the wine recognized each other immediately from their childhood days, and wasted no time reconnecting.

The moral of this story is simple: you do not have to shell out the $75 plus to experience the joys of López de Heredia. Not that you shouldn't - many people say that a López de Heredia Gran Reserva represents one of the very best values in red wine. But you can spend about $25 on Viña Cubillo and still bask in Rioja glory. By the way, the steady-handed David McDuff's wrote about this same wine only a few weeks ago. Check out his take on it here.


Joe Manekin said...

Neil -

Glad you posted about the seldom written up Cubillo. Plenty of ink on the rosé, the whites, the bosconia and tondonia reservas and GR's.

BrooklynLady is quite perceptive, the resemblance between good traditional Rioja and Burgundy is undeniable. For a few other traditional producers at affordable prices, check out Señorio de P. Peciña (imported by Jose Pastor) and Señor de Lesmos (Marble Hill Cellars).

Oh, the Mazuelo is synonymous with Cariñena (carignane). So it's 5% Mazuelo and the other 5% is Graciano.

word verification: 'hudisms'

AJ said...

Check out the Viña Bosconia Reserva as well. In Ontario the 2000 Bosconia is only $3 more than the 2002 Cubillo (30 vs. 27). A beautiful wine.

Alex Halberstadt said...

Cubillo is a lovely wine but at $25 it can pose a bit of a quandary. For me, a wine like the Rioja Alta Viña Ardanza, a reserva that costs $3-4 more, tastes and smells far more complex and Burgundian, especially in the recent '99 and '00 vintages. I suppose one can be in the mood for a crianza, but personally I find the price tag a little difficult to swallow. But then it's Lopez, and like the best of everything it does cost more.

David McDuff said...

Thanks for the shout, Neil. I'm glad to see you enjoyed this as much as I did. As Alex suggests, Cubillo may be priced just a few bucks too high to be a truly everyday wine but I still feel it's a tremendous value given the beauty of its expression and the pleasure that drinking it brings.

Brooklynguy said...

hey olde skool - thanks for the comments, the interesting rioja suggestions (i have never heard of wither and will look for them), and the correction on my blend information.

been meaning to do just that AJ, thanks.

hi Alex - although i like rioja alta a lot, i've preferred everything by Lopez. but i love that about wine - the experience i had with this wine is the same as the one you have with rioja alta, and neither of us is wrong. the cubillo could technically be labeled reserva, since it gets 3 years aging, 3 in oak. why they leave it a crianza, i don't know. so in that sense, it's $25 for a crianza-labeled reserva.

mcDee - i agree. $21 would be beautiful, but it's a fantastic value at $25 in my book.

Wine of Month Club said...

At $25 from one of the great producers in the world I have to wonder why I have never tried it. Yeah I feel like a dope too!


Alex Halberstadt said...

I completely agree—wine is fascinating in its seemingly random gifts and variations. Strangely, while I was once lucky enough to share a beautiful, ethereal '81 Tondonia gran reserva, I've never had very good luck with the reservas or the Cubillo. The Lopez whites, on the other hand, have been completely mind altering; they're some of the most singular wines I've come across. For a while Char 4 on Smith Street was selling the 1989 Tondonia reserva white for $45, an act of real generosity. The stuff goes beautifully with pork belly.

Djpiechota said...

inspired by your post, I found some Cubillo the other day. I had the Rosado for the first time only a few weeks ago and was blown away by it. I don't expect the same experience with the Cubillo but very much look forward to testing it's charms.