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All podcast music: “Café connection” by morgantj / CC BY 3.0, ©2009 – Licensed under Creative Commons 
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Oct 5, 2020

In the show, I welcome Victor Urrutia, the CEO of the Compañia Vinícola del Norte de España (CVNE) one of the most famed bodegas in Rioja, which has been around since 1879. Victor is part of the 5th generation of a family that has run CVNE (said coo-NAY) for 141 years. We discuss the storied history of this classic, traditional, high quality bodega, and probe into a dozen other Rioja-related topics.

Victor and I cover many subjects, and I was thrilled to have him - it’s been really hard for me to find Spanish producers to come on the show and he comes from one of the most historic, classic, and outstanding bodegas in Rioja (I drink A LOT of CVNE!). Here’s a high level of what you’ll find in the show: 


  1. Victor tells us the story of his family in Rioja and in wine, and his circuitous route to becoming a leader that combines a progressive attitude with a strong respect for tradition.


  1. We dork out on the Rioja region. Victor tells us all about what is important and what is not in the world of Rioja wine. We discuss the three major regions (Alta, Alavesa, Baja/Oriental) and how they differ in geography, grape types, and traditions.

  1. We hit on climate, climate change, and the land that surrounds Rioja


  1. Victor compares Rioja to Champagne (at first I was skeptical, but I see his point now and you will too) and the movement towards single vineyard wines to the grower movement. We have a nerdy discussion about Italians in Barolo, the French in Champagne, and the Riojanos and how all these regions share much common ground (I promise, it comes together!).

  2. Victor tells us about the differences between the four brands under the CVNE umbrella in short:
    • CVNE is the flagship brand. Grapes come from both Rioja Alta and Rioja Alavesa, and from warmer and cooler climates to make highly drinkable, tasty wine. CVNE is made every year, and is made in a traditional style. It is a classic Rioja which changes with vintage, but never wavers on quality.
    • Imperial is Reserva and Gran Reserva only. These wines are structured, excellent for aging, and only made in the best years from estate grown fruit in Rioja Alta. First made in the 1920s, these wines are the benchmark style of classic Rioja for many familiar with the region.
    • Viña Real was also launched in the 1920s, but it is more fruit forward, has a stronger new oak component and a higher percentage of Garnacha to make it more fruit forward and “modern” in style. Grapes come from Rioja Alavesa.

    • Contino is CVNE’s single vineyard brand, established in 1973. These wines are reflective of the site in Rioja Alavesa and are usually more fruit forward and powerful than either Imperial or Viña Real.
    • Monopole is the white wine we mention, that has a portion of Sherry blended in, representing the old school style. It’s outstanding.


We end with a few business questions about how Spain invested to become such a force in the modern wine world, the future of Rioja if Alavesa (which is located squarely in Basque country) was to separate from the larger region, and the plans for CVNE, which involve never being satisfied and always doing better (an excellent goal).


This is a lively, unique look at Rioja. Take a listen then try these wines – I have been a pretty loyal drinker for years and I can promise that if you like Rioja, these will wow you!


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