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The Rioja Road Less Traveled

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Yes Virginia, there is white wine in Rioja.

Rioja is renowned the world over for its spectacular red wines.  Rare is the Rioja red (think Tempranillo) that I can resist.  I can’t help it.  I get all weak-kneed and gooey for Tempranillo.  Tempranillo might just be my spirit animal.

But wait.  Rioja also makes white wines. Really good white wines.  If you’ve never tried a white Rioja before . . . get thee to a wine store and grab one (just down and to the left from all those eye-level Kendall Jackson Chardonnays).  Tasting a white Rioja for the fist time is an epiphany — and you’ll kick yourself for missing out on this deliciousness for so long!

CVNE, the Compañia Vinicola del Norte de España, was founded in 1879 by two brothers, Eusebio and Raimundo Real de Asúa, in the town of Haro, Rioja.  A spelling mistake on an early vintage (think early 20th century auto-correct) effectively changed CVNE into Cune (pronounced Coo-nay).  Today, CVNE remains a family owned and operated business.

The focus at CVNE is definitely on red wine production (according to, white wine production hovers around 5% for CVNE).  I’ve had the giddy pleasure of tasting several of the CVNE Imperial and Reserva/Gran Reserva line red Riojas.  And sure, I could get all wine-jargoney about describing them, but I’ll just leave it at this . . . those wines are freaking awesome!  By way of actual data, in 2013, the CVNE Rioja Imperial Gran Reserva 2004 was the #1 wine on Wine Spectator’s Top 100 list.

But what about those white Riojas?

Recently, I had the opportunity to taste three CVNE wines that are definitely on the Rioja Road Less Traveled (a white and two pinkies):

Monopole 2015  ⭐⭐⭐⭐/90
100% Viura (outside of Rioja, it’s known as Macabeo).  Viura is by far the most widely planted white grape in Rioja.  And Viura/Macabeo is also one of the three main grapes that goes into Cava (Macabeo, Xarel-lo, and Parellada).  CVNE has been making Monopole since 1915, making Monopole the oldest white wine of Spain.  Apparently, the first vintages of Monopole were aged in oak and blended with (of all things!) Manzanilla Sherry.  Today, Monopole is aged completely in stainless steel.  Aromas of green apple and some kind of intoxicating white flower (jasmine?).  Tropical and fresh with a zippy core.  Lemons and minerals abound on the finish.  I 💜 Viura!  Retail = $13ish.

Note to self:  Get more of this!!

Viña Real Rosado 2015  ⭐⭐⭐/86
CVNE launched the Viña Real line of wines in 1920.  85% Viura, 15% Tempranillo.  A pale pink color — it reminds me of a Provence Rosé.  (And it’s such a pretty contrast to the Cune Rosado below).  Elegant and delicate, with flavors of peaches and orange peel.  Not as hefty as the Cune Rosado, but a lovely and super-easy-to-drink glass of wine.  Take it to the beach, take it on a picnic, drink it on the patio.  Retail = $15ish.

Cune Rosado 2015  ⭐⭐⭐/88
100% Tempranillo.  Would you get a load of the color on this wine??  This is a happy, happy color.  Flavors of strawberry and rhubarb.  Structure for d-a-y-s.  So much heft, yet a supremely elegant wine.  Super versatile, it stood up to both solo drinking and Indian curry.  I know! Who’da thought?  Retail = $13ish.

Disclaimer:  I received these wines as samples from Donna White Communications.

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