Every year, when the Wine Spectator list of Top 100 Wines comes out, I like to play a game where I see how many wines on the list I’ve tasted and/or own. This year, that number is 10. Hey, 10% isn’t bad for an Armchair Sommelier. And then comes part two of my game — are there any wines on the list that don’t cost the national debt of Lichtenstein that I can get my hands on?
The #1 wine this year is the Cune Rioja Imperial Gran Reserva 2004. Rioja is my crack — I can’t resist it. When I see a Rioja come across my laptop screen from WTSO, I fold like a soft taco . . . SOLD. So, I thought, why not try to score some Cune. Just for fun, I typed it into wine-searcher.com, and got a hit! I knew if I didn’t act within the next 3.2 seconds, I’d lose out. There was a 2 bottle limit, so I ordered two bottles. A no-brainer. I also ordered a couple of bottles of La Rioja Alta Viña Ardanza Reserva 2004, #22 on the list. Because I’m weak and I can’t resist. We’ve been over that.
I couldn’t believe it! What a score!! It was too good to be true. And if something seems too good to be true . . .
It probably is.
The box arrived, and I unpacked my prize. I’m the proud owner of a bottle of Cune Rioja Imperial Reserva 2004. Notice anything missing? Like say, the word Gran?? I blinked a few times hoping my middle-aged eyeballs were playing a cruel joke on me. Still no Gran. And then I may or may not have used some inelegant language.
I’ve been duped! No dumbass, you got ahead of yourself and ordered the wrong thing. Urgh. I’ve made a terrible mistake.
One little word . . . it makes all the difference in the world. Or does it??
I did a little research, and compiled the ratings for the 2004 Gran Reserva and Reserva:
Wine Spectator tasting notes for the Gran Reserva:
Firm and a bit austere, this red shows depth and drive, with chewy tannins supporting plum, tobacco, licorice and mineral flavors. The structure is solid but the wine remains fresh. Maturing now, this has a long life ahead. Drink now through 2024. 4,000 cases made.–TM
Wine Spectator tasting notes for the Reserva:
This plump red offers cherry and berry flavors wreathed in spice, tobacco and cedar. Balanced and gentle, in the traditional style, but has enough structure for food. Drink now through 2014. 500 cases imported. –TM
There you have it. It’s depth, drive, and chewy tannins that get you 5 extra points.
Even Wine Spectator hints at a thin difference between the two wines, saying, “these differences have not been systematic or consistent over time, and many older bottlings are not clearly labeled.” Uh-huh. I gotcha.
I think we’re splitting hairs here. This is going to come down to my favorite wine axiom:
And did I like my Cune Rioja Imperial Reserva 2004? You betcha! I put my nose into the glass, inhaled, and my eyes rolled into the back of my head. No need (well, almost no need) to taste it, I’d be happy to just sit here and smell it for the rest of the night. This is everything I love about Rioja — a dusty, funky, tobacco nose, with flavors of figs and black cherries. Gorgeous mouth-feel and well balanced tannins.
Even a mistake can turn into a happy ending.