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The wines of  Cune, Rioja, Spain

Compania Vinícola del Norte de España, Lersundi, 9-6aPlta, E48009 Bilbao, Spain
Tel: +34 944 243 000 Fax: +34 944 246 686
E-mail: cvnebi@eurociber.es

Compania Vinícola del Norte de España, better known as 'Cune', is one of the leading traditional Rioja producers.

First, it’s probably worth clarifying the relationship between Cune and Contino, which is often a source of confusion. They are not the same company: instead, Contino is a separate estate, making single-estate Riojas, but which is 50% owned by Cune. Although I tasted them together, I’m going to be writing up the wines of Contino separately because they are actually quite different.

Cune is a highly reliable producer and these wines rank among the best of the traditional-styled Riojas. They age well, and even the cheaper wines, made in industrial quantities, have enough interest to hold the attention. In their youth some of the more serious wines here aren’t particularly forward and can seem quite challenging, but they have a good track record for ageing.

Cune use different bottle shapes to distinguish which part of Rioja the wines come from. Those in Burgundy-shaped bottles have their origin in Rioja Alavesa while those in Bordeaux-style bottles hail from Rioja Alta.

Viña Real Barrel-Fermented Blanco ‘Monopole’ 2000
Mainly the Viura grape, sometimes with a touch of Malvasia (this is quite hard to ripen, apparently). There’s some skin contact, and new American oak is used. Very expressive oaky nose which is very smooth and creamy, with some vanilla notes. Fresh, dry savoury palate with lemony fruit and high acidity. A very unusual style of wine with real appeal, if very oaky. Very good+

Cune Blanco 2000
This is an unoaked Viura. Crisp lemony nose is bright and fresh, leading to a savoury lemony/nutty palate with good acidity. A nice fresh food wine with lots of flavour. Very good

Cune Rioja Crianza 1999
From Rioja Alta, this is 95% Tempranillo aged in a 50/50 mix of American and French oak barrels. Considering the industrial quantities this wine is made in (around a million bottles each year) the quality is exemplary. Lovely expressive cherry/herby nose leads to a nicely savoury midweight palate with good acidity. Enough here to hold the interest. Very good+

Cune Viña Real Crianza 1999
Made in similarly industrial quantities but this time from Rioja Alavesa, which has more chalky soils and makes wines with greater structure. Nice spicy chalky nose leads to an attractive structured palate which is spicy and chunky, showing savoury berry fruit. High acidity: really needs food. Very good+

Cune Reserva 1997
Rioja Alta fruit. 1997 was a complicated harvest in Rioja. Good depth of colour here with an attractive spicy lift to the nose, together with some sweet fruit and herby complexity. On the palate there is a good density of savoury, chunky fruit with high acidity. Interesting in a traditional style, and good value. Very good+

Cune Viña Real Reserva 1997
Rioja Alavesa. Nice spicy medicinal edge to the savoury nose. The palate displays lovely chunky herb-tinged fruit with firm tannins and good acidity. There’s a minerally, meaty complexity here that is quite compelling. Very savoury and quite challenging at the moment, but good concentration bodes well for the future. Very good/excellent

Cune Viña Real Reserva 1995
Quite a youthful, fruity nose showing notes of meat, tea and leather. Lovely rich herby palate is quite complex with a spicy, savoury edge. A bit richer and sweeter than the 1997. Very good/excellent

Cune Viña Real Gran Reserva 1995
Really attractive spicy complexity on the nose. The complex, chunky palate exhibits herbs, caramel and leather notes with a spicy edge to the fruit. Very expressive, dense and with an intriguing complexity this is a brilliant wine. Excellent

Cune Viña Real Gran Reserva 1994
Slightly muted herby, spicy nose leads to a midweight palate with chunky, herby fruit. It’s nice but a little bit closed at the moment. This is surprising as 1994 was supposed to be a brilliant vintage in Rioja: perhaps it will open out and shine with more time in bottle. Perhaps not. Very good+

Cune Imperial Reserva 1998
Rioja Alta. There was no Gran Reserva in 1998. Seductive, sweet herbal nose with a caramel edge and sweet fruit. Lovely sweet fruit on the chewy, herby palate with some tobaccoey complexity. Striking wine, spoiled just a touch with an oaky vanilla edge. Very good+

Cune Imperial Gran Reserva 1994
Quite an expressive herby nose. Lovely density of savoury, herby fruit on the palate, together with good acidity. This is an interesting wine already showing quite a bit of complexity. Very good/excellent

Cune Imperial Gran Reserva 1995
Focused nose with complex herby character and a spicy/medicinal edge. There’s rich, sweet fruit on the palate with herby, leathery notes and good acid. Very nice. Very good/excellent  

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wines tasted May 2002; article published October 2002