American consumers have developed a thirst for gran reserva Rioja and are helping to drive sales of the style according to one of the region’s historic estates.
CVNE’s CEO, Victor Urrutia
Speaking to the drinks business during a recent visit to London, Victor Urrutia, chief executive of CVNE, said: “Americans are getting super excited about Gran Reserva Rioja. There’s a trend in the US for going back to the Old World classics and family-owned estates.
“Old Gran Reservas age like old Burgundies – they take on lovely earthy, mushroommy characteristics but are a fraction of the price of top Burgundy.
“With aged Gran Reserva Rioja you can come close to the old Burgundy experience for a quarter of the price. We’ve started to get calls from auction houses about our old stock. Their ears are beginning to prick up.
“We’re lucky enough to have a decent library of old stock that we’re selling on allocation as in the past there was limited interest in buying older vintages.” Urrutia admitted that being voted the Wine Spectator’s Wine of the Year last year with CVNE Imperial Gran Reserva 2004 has really helped to raise CVNE’s profile in the US. “We’re very much seen as a fine wine brand in America,” he said.
“The US is a great place to sell Spanish wine right now – there’s a big buzz around Spanish wines in trendy restaurants in New York and San Francisco. We’re also focusing on South America via countries like Columbia, Ecuador and Peru,” he added.
Closer to home, having sold it in the domestic market for two years, CVNE is bringing its barrel-fermented Contino white Rioja to the UK this year. “It’s a blend of Garnacha Blanca, Viura and Malvasia made in the Burgundian style that spends three months on its lees in barrel,” Urrutia told db.
The company is also due to launch a new wine brand – Buenos Dias – onto the market, offering wines from Ribera del Duero and Rueda at the £8-10 price point, which is where Urrutia believes you can become “meaningful” in the market.
“The labels will say “Made by CVNE” to link back to us, but we’re happy to be ambassadors for other Spanish regions outside Rioja,” he said.
Speaking about entry-level Spanish wine, Urrutia lamented the fact that an ocean of bulk wine from central Spain is dragging down the country’s image.
“The cheap bulk wine from central Spain is a problem that isn’t going to go away. There are some awful brands out there that are damaging “brand Spain” and dragging down its quality wine image,” he said.
“The top producers are okay, it’s the ones in the middle that are getting squeezed,” he added. CVNE makes around 50,000 bottles a year of its top wine, Imperial Gran Reserva.