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Barrel cellar at Compañía Vinicola del Norte de España ​winery in Rioja.

C.V.N.E. winery

For more than 140 years, the Compañía Vinicola del Norte de España has been a model of winemaking consistency in the Rioja region. Better known as C.V.N.E. or Cune, the company based in Haro has been owned by the same family, which has helped to define the popular Crianza and Reserva categories for Rioja’s classic and collectible red wines.

According to Víctor Urrutia Ybarra, the fifth generation of the family to serve as Cune’s director, with his sister Maria Urrutia Ybarra, Crianza and Reserva wines are the benchmark of Rioja. They are wines that are made to conform to a specific style that consumers expect, with strict regulations governing which grape varieties are used and how they are made.

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“You can’t deviate too much from what you’re doing,” he says.

Cune’s traditional values are evident in its company’s logo, which is based on the Spanish flag, sporting vertical orange and red stripes as opposed to the horizontal lines on the flag. It sells 70 per cent of its production in Spain, with 30 per cent exported to markets including Canada, where Cune enjoys good distribution across the provinces.

Víctor Urrutia Ybarra is the fifth generation of the family to serve as Cune’s director, along with his sister.

Markel Redondo/C.V.N.E. winery

Recently some Rioja producers have started exporting wines with the name of the tempranillo grape on their labels instead of the Crianza designation, which indicates the wine was aged for two years prior to release, including one year in barrel. They believe consumers have a better understanding of the principal grape variety used in Rioja than a winemaking classification.

“I totally get the people who don’t want to use it or don’t care about it. To someone who doesn’t know about wine, it probably doesn’t mean much,” Urrutia Ybarra says. “However, we created the category, we were the first to start using Crianza back in the day. Cune Crianza: It just rolls off of the tongue. It works. We’re doing something right.”

The Cune Crianza and Reserva are featured recommendations this week, along with seven other wines from Spain that showcase the country’s ability to produce inexpensive selections along with high-quality wines from historic appellations, such as Rioja and Ribera del Duero.

Alejandro Fernández Condado de Haza Crianza 2016 (Spain), $27.95

rating out of 100

91

Condado de Haza’s estate in Ribera del Duero includes 200 hectares of vineyards dedicated to the tempranillo grape. This ripe and complex red wine gained concentration and richness from 14 months aging in American oak barrels in the winery’s underground cellar. The core of cherry and plum fruit is balanced by nice structure and fragrant floral and spice notes. Drink now to 2026. Available in Ontario at the above price, $25.65 in Quebec (2017 vintage).

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Alejandro Fernández Dehesa La Granja 2015 (Spain), $21.95

rating out of 100

90

This is made by the Fernandez family’s estate in Zamora in Castilla y León. A complex and nicely structured red wine made from 100 per cent tempranillo, this offers a mix of richly concentrated fruit flavours and fragrant oak-derived notes. The riper spectrum of flavours suggests a mix of blackberry jam and kirsch with cocoa, pepper and balsamic notes. Drink now to 2026. Available in Ontario at the above price, $20.75 in Quebec.

Bodegas Castaño Organic Monastrell 2020 (Spain), $10.80

rating out of 100

87

This ripe and juicy red wine from southeastern Spain is made from 100 per cent monastrell (a.k.a. mourvèdre) and offers a mix of fresh and dried fruit notes and some fragrant tobacco and savoury accents. Its smooth and round texture make it easy to appreciate. It’s a simple and effective barbecue red. Vegan friendly. Drink now. Available at the above price in Ontario, $12.49 in British Columbia ($9.97 until June 5), various prices in Alberta, $13.99 in Manitoba.

Beronia Rosé 2020 (Spain), $13.95

rating out of 100

87

A dry rosé made from tempranillo grown in Rioja, this offers a mix of strawberry and spice flavours that are simple and refreshing. Its vibrant and clean style makes for a food-friendly rosé that’s ready for barbecue season. Drink now to 2022. Available in Ontario.

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Cune Crianza 2017 (Spain), $16.95

rating out of 100

90

The best-selling Crianza style red wine in Spain, Cune delivers an attractive combination of bright and crunchy red fruit, with tart cherry and pomegranate notes with some fragrant herbal notes. Made to be refreshing, with nicely balanced tannins and acidity, the light and juicy personality makes for a great red to enjoy with or without food. Drink now to 2027. Vegan friendly. Available in Ontario at the above price, $29.49 in British Columbia, various prices in Alberta, $19.99 in Saskatchewan, $16 in Quebec, $21.99 in Nova Scotia.

Cune Reserva 2015 (Spain), $21.95

rating out of 100

92

A blend of tempranillo with small additions of grenache, graciano and mazuelo, this reserve red wine offers an attractive mix of ripe red fruit and sweet spice with a pleasingly smooth texture. The ripe and juicy style makes this enjoyable right now, but there’s structure and intensity to age gracefully. Drink now to 2028. Available in Ontario at the above price, $29.49 in British Columbia, various prices in Alberta, $31.99 in Nova Scotia, $29.49 in Prince Edward Island.

Gran Feudo Rosado 2019 (Spain), $12.80

rating out of 100

86

One of the most famous rosé brands from Spain, Gran Feudo is produced from the grenache (garnacha) grape in Navarra. It’s made in a refreshing style, with vibrant red fruit and some herbal notes that carry through to a crisp finish. It’s a pink wine that’s best enjoyed with a meal. Drink now. Available in Ontario.

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Toro Bravo Shiraz Garnacha Rosado 2020 (Spain), $8.45

rating out of 100

85

This rosé version of the popular Toro Bravo brand comes in a flavourful style that pairs sweet and candied berry notes with ruby grapefruit and lemon flavours that carry through to the lingering aftertaste. While I wish it offered more overall refreshment, the richer expression is sure to please many consumers. Vegan friendly. Drink now. Available in Ontario.

Torres Mas La Plana Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 (Spain), $69.95

rating out of 100

93

Mas La Plana is the flagship cabernet sauvignon made by the Torres family in Penedes, Spain. Made from a single vineyard that’s planted exclusively with the cabernet grape, it has been viewed as one of the world’s top cabernets since the 1970 vintage. The 2015 vintage is surprisingly approachable with a mellow, polished character at this early stage of development. While this has the concentration, balance and intensity to age gracefully, the way it tastes right now makes one wonder why you’d want to wait? Drink now to 2030. Available at the above price in Ontario, $70.99 in British Columbia, various prices in Alberta, $74.99 in Manitoba, $65 in Quebec, $71.99 in New Brunswick.

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