£9.99–£13.50, Waitrose, Sainsbury's, Ocado, Wholefoods
This is the latest release of an old friend – and it’s a triumph against the odds. When you see the weather reports for 2017, you wonder how CVNE could make a Rioja Reserva this good: a wine of fragrance, concentration, precision and persistence; a red with spiced red cherry and red berry fruit, rich, subtly spicy oak, polished tannins and a saline, mineral, pine-needle freshness; a wine that’s ready now but could be cellared for another seven or eight years.
The answer is that if anyone could do it, it’s CVNE (pronounced coo-nay, short for Compañia Vinícola del Norte de España) under technical director Maria Larrea. It was done with hand-picked grapes from CVNE’s vineyards in Rioja Alta fermented in stainless steel, aged for 18 months in a mix of French and American oak barrels and released after another 18 months.
The official rating for the 2017 vintage is ‘Good’, but when you know that the last time the Rioja Consejo Regulador rated a vintage below that was 1984 (which merited ‘Normal’) you can see that the authority takes a generous approach and that it’s handy to have a pinch of salt with you with when reading its runes. In brief, the 2017 growing season saw severe cold, frost and snow, too much rain and then a hot summer and an early harvest.
Good Rioja Reserva is at ease with food, so I don’t need to say much, but here’s a start: roast (quick or slow) lamb and other red meat, pork and duck; chorizo and meaty, spicy sausages; vegetables, especially roast Mediterranean veg and mushrooms; hard cheeses, especially sheep’s. For the record I paired it with roast Med veg, shoulder of new season’s lamb, a salad of gésiers de canard (duck gizzards – sounds more appetising in French) and a sheep’s cheese from southwest France. 14%. Bottle weight: 471g.
CVNE Rioja Reserva 2017, Rioja Alta, Spain