A taste of Spain’s Rioja

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It is understood that the people who work with wine somehow shape it too: while wine is indeed time, climate, and space distilled elegantly in a bottle, surely the hands who made it have left their imprint on it too?

Spanish wine company CVNE (pronounced cooh-neh) — standing for Compañía Vinícola del Norte de España — began in 1879. Marina Eito, Asia Area Manager for CVNE, said that the company has seven vineyards in different Spanish regions, but out of the seven, four of them are in Rioja. Rioja wines have the privilege and duty of having a DOC, a denominación de origen calificada conferred by the Spanish government. While it protects the name of the region’s products, it also expects that everything is to be made according to a high standard. Furthermore, Rioja has been cultivating vineyards since before the arrival of the Romans, due to the influence of another ancient civilization, the Phoenicians.

Ms. Eito points out the company’s logo is composed of the same colors as the flag of Spain. “We are the only company — not winery, company — that can have the colors of the flag of Spain in the logo,” she said, owing to the fact that, “This company is one of the oldest companies that have been making wine in Spain.” That, plus the family that owns it, the Real de Asua family, according to her, has close ties to the Crown. “Thanks to this relationship, we have always had a good position in the national market,” said Ms. Eito.

But the royal connection is not the only thing going for it. Consider that for the 2004 wedding of the present King Felipe VI to then-Letizia Ortiz y Rocasolano (now Queen), the then-Prince of Asturias chose a 1994 Imperial Gran Reserva from CVNE not because of their connections, but because it stood out during a blind tasting. The same line, a 2004 Imperial Gran Reserva, was pronounced the best wine in the world by Wine Spectator in 2013.

“We want to be the representative of Spanish wines and Spanish flavors,” said Ms. Eito. “Our strategy is to give a complete portfolio of Spanish flavors; the Spanish soul, to our partners in the international market.”

THE TASTE
BusinessWorld took part in a tasting of a line of CVNE’s wines at Salcedo Village’s Rambla earlier this month, paired with dishes prepared by Ignacio Alcala. The meal kicked off with Iberian presa air baguette with PX, piparras, and Parmesan cheese cream. This was paired with a Roger Goulart Rose 2017, which had a velvety mouthfeel and a light citrusy flavor. This was a wonderful contrast with the crisp baguette and the silky ham.

Next came a Pagos de Galir Godello 2018, which had a light, spicy aroma that might predict something stronger. The taste, however, was quite light, shy, and sweet. This was paired with Roasted Cabbage with Scallops, which livened up what could have been a very mild and wholesome dish. The same was paired with Huevos Rotos with Lobster, by itself a work of art, a lovely melange of eggs and tender lobster flesh, dressed in a strong lobster reduction. This, we felt, was a better pairing with the wine, for it tamed the stronger, briny flavors of the shellfish.

A mild Chicken Croqueton passed without much notice, but the wine pairing of Cune Reserva 2014 gave it some gravitas. An Imperial Reserva 2015, with a tempered, unhurried, and subtle spicy flavor was born for the Ribeye Paella that was served with it. The meal ended with a cheesecake with rosemary ice cream, which nicely cleaned the palate.

Ms. Eito, herself from Rioja, tried to describe how the character of the wine has somehow been infused with the character of the region’s people. “Normally, it’s people who are humble, hardworking, and very easy in conversation,” she said. “The major production of Rioja is in the Tempranillo grape. A characteristic of Tempranillo is high acidity. Thanks to this high acidity, you can prolong the life of the wine.

“When you meet a Rioja wine, or a Rioja person,” and here she smiled, “You have a friendship for a long time.” — Joseph L. Garcia

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