Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Rhode Island Wine Weekend, Part III

We drank several exceptional bottles of Rioja on Saturday night. Each of these wines was a special thing, something that could be the focus of a special dinner. I've had a little experience drinking mature wines by López de Heredia, and maybe a bottle or two by La Rioja Alta. But that's about it. So drinking these wines was a wonderful way for me to get a sense of some of the other great producers in the region.

These wines also rekindled my thoughts about the objective an subjective in wine. The wine I liked the most was not, objectively speaking, the best wine. This is something that can be hard to wrap your head around as it's happening. For me, it can still be tempting to conflate favorite and best.

We began by drinking two bottles by Compañía Vinícola del Norte de España, a famous Rioja producer whose wines I had never before tasted. You see this producer referred to as CVNE, which everyone seems to then pronounce as if it were spelled CUNE. The 1970 CVNE Viña Imperial Gran Riserva is the first Rioja we poured and I was blown away by the nose. To me the nose was the epitome of Rioja. I could tell you that it smelled of leather and blood, and it did. But that could describe Syrah or wines from other places. There was just something particular about the sheerness of the aromas, the way they came together as a whole, that for me was a classic expression of Rioja. The wine was not as complete on the palate, but it was delicious and I loved it.

The 1978 CVNE Imperial Riserva was thought by everyone to be the better wine, and as the night wore on, revisiting them both, I do not disagree. Also lovely on the nose, but with a more floral aspect, and more complete on the palate, the wine was great. It made me think of Burgundy, in a way, and I got hung up on this after the essence of Rioja that was the Viña Real. It's perfectly fine that I preferred Viña Real, but that doesn't mean it was the better wine.
We then drank 1981 López de Heredia Viña Bosconia Gran Riserva. I've had this wine several times and this was the finest bottle yet. Beautifully perfumed, incredible balance and detail, a truly spectacular bottle of wine. This wine is objectively better than the 1970 Viña Real, and I absolutely loved it. But I preferred the former on this night. By this time I understood what was going on - the experience I had with the clarity of the terroir as expressed in the Viña Real simply made a bigger impression on me than the great things about the other wines.

We finished with two very special bottles, 1987 and 1964 Marqués de Murrieta Castillo de Ygay. Both were excellent. The 1987 was noticeably young, especially after drinking the other more mature wines. The 1964, however, that was a memorable bottle of wine. Perfect harmony and balance, everything so well integrated, a lushness to the composition but the feeling was nimble and bright. Fantastic wine, maybe the best of them all.

And yet, I preferred the 1970 Viña Real! You know by now that I am not trying to say it was better, because objectively speaking it might have been the least of the five wines. But on that night it spoke to me in a special way. That's worth something too, and I am happy to be learning how to appreciate both the subjective and objective.


Greg Sorensen said...

Saw these beautiful Rioja's on Peter's Instagram. There is something singular about traditional Rioja sometimes, glad you found it in the Vina Real. Though Vina Real is not what it once was, it has often been one of the greatest Riojas I have tasted. 76, 85, 87 come to mind. Thanks for sharing.

Ben said...

If you don't mind a question on an older post, I wondered if you remembered whether the 1970 CVNE Vina Real Gran Riserva and 1978 CVNE Imperial Riserve were decanted prior to drinking and for how long? You inspired me to buy a couple of bottles.

Also, you're probably already aware of this but in case you aren't, the search bar labelled "search this blog" isn't functional anymore. The other search bar, at the very top left of the page (with the blogspot logo next to it) is functional, though.

Brooklynguy said...

Ben - we did not decant the wines. We did open them a few hours before drinking them, though, and pour a small taste to see what's what. And I did not realize that the search function is not working - thank you. Not sure that I can fix it but will try.

Ben said...

Thank you very much for the decanting info. Had forgotten to check back after asking until now.