Mission Codename Empirical evidence
In a recent article Matt Kramer of Wine Spectator asks for a friend…
“Is Rioja Today’s Most Overlooked (and Underappreciated) Wine?”
In the quest for an answer, he quotes… Victor Urrutia “the fifth-generation owner of CVNE, ‘what will it take for people outside of Spain to recognize the greatness of Rioja’s wines?’ …Mr. Urrutia feels a certain frustration because his flagship red, called Imperial, is indisputably great. And while it gets a very good price, hovering near the $100 mark, it only rarely gets cited among the world’s greatest red wines, setting aside its recognition in 2013 as Wine Spectator’s Wine of the Year.”
Kramer concludes: “He’s right. Rioja, uniquely in this observer’s view, routinely offers the world a level of matured wine quality like no other.”
And quality this is, from head to toe. The vivid ruby allure with the mildest garnet on the narrow rim is a sign of elegance to come, with a perfume on the nose that covers all shades of berries, with mushrooms and gamey notes to spare. Dried herbs engulfed in ripe black cherries define the initial impression on an impressive palate presence, while the heart fills in with sweet spices of the exotic, just roasted kind. The finish is immense, with crescendo after crescendo of fruit, chocolate, charcoal, and expensive leather. It truly would elevate a feast with a roast beast of any kind as the centerpiece.
Let’s get a second opinion. Alongside this 2015’s review below Antonio Galloni’s Vinous points out: “Over the past decade the quality of these traditionally made wines has been on a steady rise. Today I would count CVNE among the region’s top producers, up and down the range. The top-end Imperial bottlings are made from a 28-hectare vineyard in Rioja Alta. These wines have established an enviable track record for long aging. Bottles of the legendary 1968 Gran Reserva are still going strong, with what seems to be years of life ahead.”
Convinced? Need a virtually immortal classic in your stash that even your grandchildren will appreciate but it won’t cost an arm and a leg? This is the one. HALF PRICED TODAY - where no Imperial has gone before.
Just check out those glowing reviews and BIG 95-97 scores all lined up.
Youthful as it may be, pop one in the morning and let it breathe in a decanter, to reveal its wonders for the fast-approaching nighttime ahead. Sip and savor over hours as it opens and unfolds layer after layer, one of the most complex beverages your body will experience.
It may initially seem as if fifty bucks is on the steep side from a value standpoint, however for a red this fine, it’s a steal actually. Too bad it’s also highly limited as demand for “one of the best Imperial Gran Reservas in a very long time” is high amongst the collector and connoisseur hive.
97 Points – James Suckling
“This is very ripe with blackberries, dried fruit, toasted oak and black licorice on the nose. Full-bodied with ultra-fine, linear tannins and a racy, refined finish. This has fantastic structure and length. It goes on for minutes. It needs time to open and refine even more. One of the best Imperial Gran Reservas in a very long time. Drink after 2023.”
96 Points, Wine of the Year – Tim Atkin MW
“Produced in CVNE’s bodega within a bodega, entirely dedicated to Imperial, this is a superb Gran Reserva that combines Tempranillo with 10% Graciano and 5% Mazuelo. Rich, dense and layered, with fine new French and American oak, wonderful focus, savoury tannins and the depth and concentration to age for a decade or more.”
95 Points – Antonio Galloni’s Vinous
“Deep, brilliant ruby. Offers sharply defined, mineral-inflected red and dark berries, cherry liqueur, pipe tobacco, vanilla, and exotic spice scents. Chewy and penetrating in the mouth, offering concentrated black raspberry, bitter cherry, boysenberry and spicecake flavors that steadily become more lively on the back half. The strikingly persistent finish features polished tannins, repeating minerality and a touch of candied flowers. Drink 2025-2038.”
What the Winery Says
2015 'Imperial' Gran Reserva Rioja
- Maria Larrea
- 85% Tempranillo, 10% Graciano, 5% Mazuelo
- Rioja DOCa, Spain
- Rioja Alta
- First vintage
- Total acidity
- 5.31 g/L
- 24 months in barrel + 36 months in bottle
- 80% French, 20% American oak