The Insider’s Rioja

CUNE ranks high on anyone’s list of Rioja's greatest traditional producers. Yet, over its long history, it’s often been on the cutting edge
There’s no better example of CUNE’s vision than its 1973 creation of Rioja's first single-terroir winery, Contino. Prior to Contino, the world rarely knew which vineyards went into which wines. Rioja was all about blending. And as recently as the last decade,  if a wine like López de Heredia’s Viña Tondonia came from one vineyard, the label couldn't legally point that out.
The birth of Contino not only spawned the first great single-vineyard Rioja of the modern era, Contino Reserva, it also foreshadowed the exciting work today of the new wave of Rioja terroirists, led by Telmo Rodigruez, Alegre Valgañon and Artuke. 
Yet, due to its vast following in Spain, little Contino has ever made it to the U.S. A while back, we decided to change that, hosting possibly the most extensive Contino tasting ever in America. And we secured our own direct allocation from the estate. This offer is the first of several we hope to do. 
And where better to start than with a great vintage of the estate's flagship red, the 2015 Contino Reserva
Back Story
Contino was born thanks to instincts of the legendary José Madrazo. While sourcing fruit for CUNE's Viña Real, Madrazo came to love a particular site on a bend in the Ebro River, whose exposure was south-facing and whose alluvial soil contained a high percentage of limestone. While the fruit had for decades disappeared into blends, Madrazo understood the terroir’s greatness. And so he convinced CUNE to join with him to buy the site and convert it into an autonomous wine estate.  
That Madrazo was onto something is strikingly evident in the first vintage of Contino Reserva, the 1974, which we were privileged to taste in New York last year. It was still fabulous.
Contino has gone from strength to strength since, continually refined through the gifts of Jésus Madrazo, who succeeded his father in 1999, and Jorge Navascués, who joined in 2017.
The Madrazos conceived a relatively short two-year aging in American and French oak to favor Contino’s fabulous primary fruit. Yet, in the words of John Gilman, it “pays proper homage to the traditions of Rioja and has both its feet firmly planted in the rich historical legacy of this region.”
In 2015, as it was in 1974, the Reserva is the heart and soul of Contino, representing the five main red grapes grown in its soil. While delicious to drink today, it will get even better over time. If you’re wise enough to grab a case for your cellar, you’ll look back wondering how you could have possibly paid so little!

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