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Elin’s Wine Pick: 2009 Cune Viña Real Plata Rioja Crianza

Cune Vina Real Plata Rioja Crianza

2009 Cune Vina Real Plata Rioja Crianza

Trolling the offerings at importer and distributor portfolio tastings is one way I discover new labels and keep up with the latest vintages. Last week, at the Michael Skurnik tasting at New York’s Tribeca Grill, I rediscovered the good-value Spanish reds of Cune, and was taken with this smooth, cherry-spicy, medium-bodied 2009 Cune Viña Real Plata Rioja Crianza. It costs only $16, but you can find it in some shops for as little as $14.

Elin McCoy’s Wine of the Week

2009 Cune Viña Real Plata Rioja Crianza

Price: $16

Region: Rioja, Spain

Grapes: 90% Tempranillo, 10% Graciano, Garnacha, and Mazuelo

Alcohol: 13.6%

Serve with: Spicy chili, lasagna, aged sheep’s milk cheese

More of Elin's wine picks:

» Surprising quality and value from Ventoux, France

» Beyond Bordeaux stereotypes

» A fresh, bargain Burgundy

The family winery is actually named CVNE, which stands for Compania Vinicola del Norte de España, but it’s known to wine lovers as the more pronounceable Cune. One of the historic bodegas in Spain’s Rioja region, it dates to 1879. Viña Real, one of the company’s three estates, lies in the Rioja Alavesa sub-zone, which produces wines with more body, structure and acidity. The grapes come from the chalky foothills of the Sierra de Cantabria mountains.

In Rioja, a debate has been raging for a decade over whether winemakers should keep to traditional winemaking or embrace a modern, fruitier, riper style with the taste of new French oak. Cune is on the traditional side. Viña Real’s crianza is aged in old American oak casks and the wine is wonderfully fruity and balanced. It spends one year in barrel and two years in the bottle before being released, a year longer than required.

The main grape is the classic Spanish variety Tempranillo; Mazuelo, Garnacha and Graciano add bright color, gentle tannins and complexity. Rich and concentrated, with a scent of chestnut, this food-friendly red has a long, earth-and-mineral finish.

Perfect setting for 2009 Cune Viña Real Plata Rioja Crianza

Cune’s main estate has 19th-century cellars built by Gustav Eiffel, responsible for Paris’ famous Eiffel Tower, while Viña Real’s winery, designed by a well-known Bordeaux architect, is impressively modern and well worth a visit. Set on a high hill with a commanding view of the countryside, the main part has the shape of a giant wine barrel, with a huge circular room holding fermentation vats and barrels serviced by a large crane. In long tunnels dug deep into the hill, wines age in barrels and bottles.

Since 2010, Cune has been releasing older vintages of its gran reservas at fairly reasonable prices, and the 2001 shows wonderful notes of spice and leather.

But this 2009 CVNE Viña Real Rioja Crianza is a reminder of how much flavor and character Spain’s traditional Riojas offer for affordable everyday drinking.

Top composite photo:

CVNE barrels and 2009 CVNE Viña Real Rioja Crianza. Credit: CVNE

Zester Daily contributor Elin McCoy is a wine and spirits columnist and author of “The Emperor of Wine: The Rise of Robert M. Parker, Jr. and the Reign of American Taste.”