John Gilman 93+
"For decades, this bottling was produced with fifteen percent Manzanilla added into the blend just after the completion of fermentation, with the remainder of the cuvée made up entirely of Viura. It was extremely popular in its day in Spain, but as fashion changed in the 1980s, the bodegas discontinued the practice of making this wine with the addition of Manzanilla. In 2014, they have happily decided to produce a very limited quantity of the old style Monopole, which they have dubbed “Clasico” to denote the addition once again of Manzanilla in the blend. This is a terrific wine that is still very youthful and will age with great style. The nascently complex bouquet offers up a fine blend of lemon, white peach, salty soil tones, Manzanilla nuttiness and a topnote of orange peel. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied, crisp and focused, with a fine core, lovely emerging complexity, a fine base of soil and a very long, zesty and still quite primary finish. This superb wine will probably last forty years or more and I would be inclined to give it five years in the cellar to really let it blossom and start to show its secondary layers of complexity. It is one of the most unique and compelling white wines I have tasted from the Rioja region...”
Wine Advocate 91-93
"I was thinking "I wish this wine went back to the more serious bottlings of 40 and 50 years ago..." when tasting the regular Monopole, and they showed me this 2014 Monopole Clásico, which is a wine to celebrate the centenary of the brand (registered in 1914) and it blew me away. They have produced this wine like it was done in the good old times, adding some Manzanilla Sherry (yes, yes, you read it correctly); they top up the Viura with Manzanilla purchased from the Hidalgo family of Sanlúcar de Barrameda. Not only did they add the wine, they purchased the wine in bota, so the wine is also aged in Sherry casks. It does have an amazing nose with notes of sea breeze, iodine and esparto grass. The palate is extremely tasty, but at the same time is light and fresh, with the acidity of Viura and the kick and pungency from Manzanilla. Awesome! This will be bottled in a couple of months, but I couldn't help reporting on it. It will wear the old Monopole label. It won't be a one off for the centenary, they will keep producing it every vintage. Welcome back, Monopole! 30,000 bottles produced in this first vintage."
James Suckling 93
"What a wonderful white with praline, cooked pineapple, pear and lemon. Full body, very flavorful and crisp finish. So creamy and fascinating. 15% Manzanilla in the blend. Drink now"
Some years ago, during a tasting at our winery, a participant asked about our old style Monopole. This wine had a lengthy barrel ageing in old oak and a profile contrary to the modern, fruity whites made mostly everywhere nowadays.
This gentleman had fond memories of this wine. Sure, he liked the current Monopole, but he missed that old style.
From the early 20th century to the 70s, Monopole was a staple of homes and restaurants across Spain. It was one of CVNE’s main wines. Sadly, fashion turned against it, sales fell, and production in this style ceased in the 80s.
Fresh, fine, bone dry, this wine had the peculiarity and originality of having some barrel ageing with a percentage of Sherry wine, with written permission from the Rioja appellation. The Sherry added structure to the Rioja white, while they both integrated harmoniously in barrel and later in bottle.
A bottle of this old Monopole was searched for in the Haro winery’s cemetery. A solitary 1979 bottle appeared. The wine was savoury, very fresh, balanced, delicious. On the spot, the decision was made: we would make this wine again, as it had been made historically.
We called Ezequiel Garcia, CVNE winemaker from the 40s until the 70s, to invite him back to help us produce that wine again. Ezequiel, aka ‘the wizard’ and now in his eighties, had no doubts and said Yes straight away.
Monopole Clásico is the story of a remake, 40 years on; this time, with the original director as guest star. And this time, handmade and in small quantities, to best ignore the whims of fashion.
The wines’ ageing contributes to its peculiar organoleptic characteristics, adding aromas of chamomile, dried fruits, and a long and persistent aftertaste. The marked acidity increases Monopole Clásico’s freshness.
Ezequiel´s description of how white wines were produced in the 60s
Cune WineryView all from Cune Winery
CVNE (Compañía Vinícola del Norte de España) is one of the most renowned and historic bodegas in all of Spain. Founded in 1879 by the Real de Asúa brothers, Eusebio and Raimundo, the company has been an integral part of the Rioja region's ascendance in the world of fine wine. With their combination of traditional roots and innovative vision, CVNE has been one of Rioja's most reliable sources for high quality wine. The company is still run by descendants of the Real de Asúa brothers, now represented by the fifth generation with current CEO Victor Urrutia Ybarra.
Since its founding, CVNE's goal has been to increase the scope of production while maintaining the level of quality on which their reputation was built. Forty years after the original bodega was created, CVNE expanded into the Alavesa region. Today, CVNE is comprised of three separate bodegas: Cune, Viña Real, and Contino. Each of the three estates produces a distinct style of wine from a distinct terroir, and each of their flagship bottlings occupies a well-deserved place in the pantheon of great Spanish wine.
Cune is the winery where the company began in 1879. It still sits on its original site, Barrio de la Estación, in Haro, Rioja Alta, directly next to the train station. They produce white, rosé, crianza, and reserva wines, sourced almost entirely from Alta fruit. Additionally, Cune produces a sub-label called Imperial (named for the original half-liter "Imperial pint" bottling) which releases Reserva and Gran Reserva bottings in exceptional years.
The bodega in Barrio de la Estación boasts an impressive collection of 19th century structures which surround a central patio. Chief among the architectural wonders is the Nave Eiffel, designed by Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel. This room, begun in 1890 and completed in 1909, is a textbook example of the marriage of aesthetics and functionality. The roof is supported by metal trusses which crisscross the room at regular intervals, thus eliminating the need for columns and making for a more efficient use of space.
The beauty of the winery notwithstanding, the real wonders of Cune are found below ground. To walk through the dank, dimly-lit cellars is to trace the history of the bodega, vintage by vintage, era by era. Through civil war, regime change and the march of technology, Cune has remained a constant in the cultural iconography of Spain.
Viña Real, CVNE's Rioja Alavesa-based winery, released its first vintage in 1920. The Viña Real style is one that showcases the forward fruit of Alavesa while simultaneously possessing the structure to age for half a century and more. The original fruit source was in the Elciego area, in the heart of Rioja Alavesa. Those vineyards were located adjacent to the old Camino Real, from which the wine takes its name. Nowadays, the grapes are principally sourced from sunny south-facing slopes which run from the Sierra de Cantabria mountain range down to the Ebro River. As is also the case with the Cune line, the Viña Real wines are produced from over 50% estate fruit, an unusually high percentage for Rioja.
The new Viña Real facility was completed in 2004 from a design by the Bordelaise architect Philippe Mazieres. The winery is situated on top of the hill known as Cerro de la Mesa and commands sweeping views of both the Alavesa vineyards and the town of Logroño, Rioja's commercial center. The heart of the facility is a huge circular chamber which, when viewed from the outside, resembles the upper portion of a giant wine barrel. Inside, the facility is a marvel of modern technology. The above- ground portion houses the winemaking facility, which was designed with the goal of complete reliance on gravity-flow, made possible in large part by a rotating central crane. Below this is the main ageing room where the barrels rest in concentric circles around the central axis. The facility also features twin tunnels dug into the center of the hill where the bottle ageing takes place.
If the Cune bodega represents CVNE's commitment to tradition, the Viña Real bodega demonstrates their forward-thinking philosophy and their embrace of modern technology.
Contino is a single-estate bodega (62 ha of vineyards) based in a 200-year-old farmhouse just outside the town of Laguardia in the Alavesa region. The estate's name comes from the royal guard of 100 soldiers who guarded the monarch. The label is emblazoned with the bust of San Gregorio, the patron saint and protector of vineyards.
José Madrazo Real de Asúa (father of Contino's current winemaker, Jesús Madrazo) established the estate while serving as CVNE's technical director in 1974. The idea was to create one of the first single estate bodegas in the Rioja region, in direct contrast to the Rioja tradition of blending grapes from different regions and sites. CVNE had long been sourcing fruit from the Contino site for its Viña Real, but decided to purchase the entire plot around the farmhouse and plant it all to vines (a large portion of the land still had other crops planted at the time).
The current winemaker at Contino, Jesús Madrazo, spent much of his childhood at the bodega and possesses a remarkable depth of knowledge about all the details of the estate. After half a lifetime's worth of intimate exposure to the terroir and vinification practices, it's little wonder that his work at Contino is held in such high regard. While the bulk of the vines planted at Contino are Tempranillo (85%), Madrazo has also been a champion of the Graciano grape which comprises the bulk of the remaining planting. The balance is planted to Garnacha, Mazuelo and Viura.