Tempranillo, Transposed

December 7, 2021 Leave a comment Go to comments

How do you transpose a grape, any grape?

What does this title even mean? You transpose matrices (in algebra), or, at the very least, the notes of music. But Tempranillo???

Let me put my geek’s hat on, and let’s look at the definition of the “transpose” as the infinitely wise internet presents it:

“transfer to a different place or context”

The legendary CVNE had been producing Tempranillo wines in Rioja since 1879. Step by step, new vineyards were planted, and new styles of Rioja were going into production, each one with its own unique style and character – CVNE, the original earthy Rioja; softer and gentler Viña Real, powerful and concentrated Imperial, elegant and modern Contino. These are all Rioja wines, a blend of Tempranillo and a few other varieties, each one with its own personality and its own following.

Achieving success, some of us can just sit quietly and enjoy it. And some of us just want to say “I’m here now, and this is great, but I can’t stop. Let’s go further”. And down south CVNE decided to go, into the Ribera del Duero area.

Rioja is unquestionably famous with its Tempranillo wines, with producer such as CVNE, Muga, La Rioja Alta, Lopez de Heredia, and Contador. Ribera del Duero, down south from Rioja, got Vega Sicilia, Pingus, Pesquera, Emilio Moro – all amazing Tempranillo renditions as well. Now, the question is – why would a famous Rioja producer expand into a different region? Well, this is somewhat of a “why did the chicken cross the road” type of question – simply to get to the other side. CVNE doesn’t want to stop. CVNE goes beyond Rioja, into Ribera del Duero, the land of 100% Tempranillo wines – and the folks in Rioja know a thing or two about Tempranillo…

This is how the new brand of CVNE wines from Ribera del Duero was born – and it is called Arano. I had a few questions about this new adventure for CVNE, and so I asked those questions of Victor Urrutia, CEO of CVNE, to understand why the Arano name, why Tempranillo from Ribera del Duero, and what does the future hold. Victor graciously agreed to answer my questions – here is our conversation:

[TaV]: Why Arano label? What is the relationship between Arano and CVNE?
[Victor Urrutia]: CVNE is the owner and founder of Bela and Arano. The Bela and Arano labels are facsimiles of a label of ours, that is to say from CVNE in Rioja, from 1910. It is a simple and beautiful label from our archives. When we try and invent things we realise that we’re not very good at it, and that in fact, what our forefathers did is far better. CVNE is a family company and has been since it was founded in 1879. The 3 stars on the label represent the 3 children of CVNE’s cofounder, Eusebio Real de Asúa. He had 2 daughters and one son. Their names were Sofia, Ramon, and Aurea Minerva. The eldest, Sofia, was known as Bela. That is the name we have given to this winery, and it is also the first estate wine that we have made in Ribera del Duero. It’s the first star. The second star is for Arano. The only son was called Ramon and his mothers’ maiden name was Arano. We chose this name for the second estate wine to be released from the winery.
Bela is Tempranillo from our vineyard in the village of Villalba, on clay soils. Aged for 9 to 12 months in barrel. The vineyard is around 70 hectares. Arano is Tempranillo from our vineyard in the village of Moradillo de Roa, on limestone and pebbled soils. Aged over 12 months in barrel. The vineyard is around 9 hectares.

[TaV]: Why Ribera del Duero? What was the inspiration for CVNE to expand into Ribera del Duero?
[Victor Urrutia]: We want to bring our take on rioja’s elegance to rugged Ribera del Duero. The latter makes excellent wines and is a historic region. As ambassadors for Spain across the world, we felt it was our obligation to own vineyards and make wine in Ribera del Duero; and to make these known everywhere.

[TaV]: What is the future hold for Arano Ribera del Duero wines? Do you plan to produce Reserva and Gran Reserva?
[Victor Urrutia]: In Ribera del Duero we are making wines that express the vineyards that we own in this appellation. We label some of these as Crianza, for instance, because some consumers find it helpful; but it is not an important consideration for us when we conceive the wine. As we get to work and know our vineyards better, we will consider releasing new wines from this winery. After all, there is another star in the label, that we need to make a wine for. We haven’t yet found this vineyard. Or rather, haven’t found the way to express what must be our grand cru in this region. But we are working on it.

[TaV]: Any future plans for CVNE to expand further south, maybe into the Toro region?
[Victor Urrutia] There are some great producers in Toro, like the García family behind Mauro. But in general, we find the wines of Toro to be very dense and powerful, and I’m not sure we know how to make wines in that style. Our future lies in continuing to make wines of elegance and age-worthiness.
We need to continue looking for vineyards that will allow us to make those kinds of wines. They’re probably in higher elevations and northern exposures. There’s much to continue doing in Rioja, Ribera and of course, Galicia, where our Virgen del Galir winery has started to make wines of great depth from the vineyards that we bought as well those we’ve planted there. We bottle Godello, Mencia as well as Merenzao, varieties that we hardly knew about some years ago and the wines are phenomenal. We even have Palomino (locals call it Jerez, or sherry) that, arguably, expresses the terroir better than anything, given its neutral profile as a grape variety. Is it perfect? No, but it’s honest. And also quite interesting. Like everything that we try to do.

Now let’s talk about CVNE’s latest and greatest – 2018 Arano Crianza. As Victor mentioned, the grapes for this wine are coming from 4 different plots in the Moradillo de Roa vineyard, located at an altitude of about 3,000 feet above sea level. I had an opportunity to taste this wine, and it was unquestionably Ribera del Duero in style, much leaner and tighter than a typical Rioja wine. Here are my notes:

2018 Arano Crianza Ribera del Duero DO (14.5% ABV, $30, 15 months in French oak barrels, Vegan)
Dark garnet
Aromas of roasted meat and earth jump out of the glass at least a foot away from it. Espresso and herbs come at you at high intensity.
The palate is somewhat unexpectedly mellow, with dark fruit and herbs, good acidity, long and supple finish.
Better concentration on the second and third day, the wine feels tighter with more energy.
Drinkability: 8-. Enjoyable now, built for the long haul

The journey is getting more and more exciting by the minute. This is not algebra, but we are definitely looking at the case of the successful transposition of a grape – go find the results of this Tempranillo transposition, and we can compare notes. Cheers!

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