Cune Rioja a revelation for me

cune spain wineAbove: I was so fortunate to be invited to a fantastic vertical of Cune with Victor Urrutia Ybarra, who led one of the most thoughtful tastings I’ve attended this year.

Four cities, three time zones, one gig, and five days spent crisscrossing the U.S… I’ve tasted so many memorable and interesting wines — from Californian to French, Spanish, and Italian — over the last week.

But the experience that continues to urge in my mind was a vertical tasting of the wines of Cune, stretching back to 1962, with the winery’s director, Victor Urrutia Ybarra.

Because of my focus on Italian wines, I’m rarely invited to taste older and fully mature Spanish and I was thrilled that my friend and media consultant extraordinaire Donna White invited me to attend the intimate gathering in the wine cellar at The Fourth in Manhattan.

Victor, whose elegance is rivaled only by his thoughtful and earnest approach in presenting his family’s wines, led a small group of leading Manhattan wine professionals through three mini-verticals, covering the winery’s current releases, the 1980s, and 1970s. The oldest wine was the 1962 Viña Real Gran Reserva.

old wine corksAbove: none of the wines, which arrived from the winery’s cellar in Rioja, had been re-corked or reconditioned. The Fourth’s able sommelier Jhonel Faelnar did a superb job of serving the wines.

The freshness, vibrant fruit and acidity, and lithe yet muscular body of these wines were a revelation for me. In particular, the 1976 Imperial Gran Reserva struck me as an expression of the unbearable lightness that makes the great wines of the world stand apart from the rest.

And it was remarkable to see how little the style of the wines has changed over the arc of our lifetime.

Victor spoke about how his family hadn’t followed the bigger-bolder trend of Spanish wines that gripped the nation in the years of its eno-renaissance.

And as Master Sommelier Roger Dagorn observed, all of the wines — from the current releases to the oldest lot — had a wonderful “vinous” quality, a red thread that ran through them, illustrating their immense aging potential.

Even the 1962, which Victor felt had passed its prime, was delicious, with lovely, however delicate, notes of fruit and herbs.

But as much as I loved the 62, the 1981 Viña Real Gran Reserva and the 1976 Imperial Gran Reserva were standouts for me.

Thank you, Donna, for inviting me to this extraordinary event.

And thank you, Victor, for one of the most thoughtful tastings I’ve attended this year. I loved the wines.

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