“Cune,” or C.V.N.E. (Compania Vinicola del Norte de Espana) was founded in Rioja in 1879. It was a heady time in the region. Spanish winemakers had visited Bordeaux as early as 1852, and they were dazzled by what they saw. They returned home determined to produce great wine by replicating two key elements of the French process: blending and barrel aging.
They blended local grapes, of course, rather than the Cabernet, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon of Bordeaux. When it came to aging wine in cask, they decided to do even better than the French. If three years of aging would produce world-class wine in the Médoc, then twice as long would be superlative. This led to the system of Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva, but also to some excesses that bordered on insanity—the 1942 Gran Reserva from Marques de Murrieta was finally released in 1983, after 41 years in cask. We can safely assume that the wine was likely harsh, dried-out and nearly undrinkable.
Throughout its history, Cune has been an innovator: they created their Monopole, the first white Rioja, in 1915, and introduced a rosé from their sister winery, Vina Real, founded in 1920. In recent years, they have also been among the first Rioja bodegas to cut back drastically on barrel aging, responding to the public demand for a fresher style of wine. Today, both the Monopole and the Rosado see no oak at all, and the results are delightful.
The floral nose of the 2014 Monopole ($14) yields scents of green apple, lime and fresh-cut melon. The palate delivers crisp acidity along with a bright, steely texture. This wine cries out for oysters, and would be perfectly at home on a hot day around the pool.
The 2014 Vina Real Rosado ($15) is even better. It has a pale salmon color and a nose perfumed with aromas of wild strawberries. In the mouth, the wine is beautifully balanced: soft, ample and slightly rich, with red berry flavors offset by earth notes and good acidity. Faint hints of white pepper emerge on the finish. When it comes to food pairings, remember the advice of Julia Child: “Rosé goes with everything.”
Mark Spivak is the author is Iconic Spirits: An Intoxicating History (Lyons Press, 2012) and Moonshine Nation (Lyons Press, 2014); for more information, go to amazon.com