Victor Urratia, the fifth generation to be in charge of the Compagnia Vinicola del Norte de Espana (CVNE), was in London recently to present 10 decades of the family's most famous Rioja Gran Reserva, Imperial. CVNE was founded by Urratia's ancestors in 1879 and still operates from the original site in Haro, home to the oldest wineries of the Rioja Alta. The Imperial name comes from the first recorded bottling made for the English market - in a bottle called Pinta Imperial or Imperial Pint. The grapes have always come from the company's own vineyards with their minimum average age of 25 years and soils rich in iron, limestone and clay. While CVNE's Reservas spend a minimum of 24 months in barrel and several years in bottle before being released for sale, the Gran Reserva usually remains even longer both in cask and in bottle to provide additional smoothness and harmony. In his introduction to the tasting, Victor Urratia stressed that he looked for three things in Imperial - layers of depth, complexity and a sense of origin – without which he felt that a wine cannot be called 'fine'. The company policy is that no wines are ever re-corked, for by refreshing and re-corking, the intrinsic originality of the wine is altered. The wines we tasted fully justified being this. While the younger wines were bottled in their fourth or fifth years, the older ones had spent over a decade in cask.

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Written by Decanter