In mid-November 2013, Wine Spectator delighted the hearts of all Spanish wine lovers (as well as the hearts of retailers who had the wine in stock) by naming the Cune Imperial Gran Reserva 2004 as its Wine of the Year. In speaking about the award in The European (Rioja's Cune Imperial is named wine of the year, 19 Novenber, 2013, www.the-european.eu), Maria Umatia, Marketing Director at CVNE, saw the award as being " ... not only good for Cune but for the region of Rioja and Spain as well." I checked in with a few members of the Rioja wine industry to see if they shared her sentiments and received valuable input from Manuel Muga, Manager at Bodegas Muga, Rodolfo Bastida, Director General, Bodegas Ramón Bilbao, and Amaya Cebrian, PR Manager, Bodegas LAN.
As is to be expected, the respondents heard the news of the award in a variety of ways. For example, Rodolfo heard about it through Twitter while Amaya read it when it was first published by Wine Spectator. If these respondents are representative of broad Rioja sentiments, then the euphoria that was experienced by Cune is pervasive. The overwhelming feeling is that this was a great recognition and vindication of Rioja -- specifically - and Spanish wine -- in general -- quality.
Riojan winemakers were going about their under-appreciated way, making what they had to feel was under-appreciated wine, when the Wine Spectator bolt from the blue struck. Maria, in my conversation with her, as well as in the European piece, admitted to surprise at the news. Our respondents were similarly -- pleasantly -- surprised. While surprised, Rodolfo had been noticing a trend towards the classic wine style, with better scores being awarded of late. Amaya expresed similar sentiments while noting that the classics from Rioja, and their quality-price relations, are "more and more valued by these experts."
I asked the respondents whether Cune's award would impact their operations in any way. Rodolfo saw no change in his future as a result of the award but hoped that, in the long term, they would be the beneficiaries of additional press attention. Amaya saw no impact on operations but hoped that the award would help bring attention to Bodegas LANs Gran Reserva. Manuel felt that giving the award to Cune made it easier for WS to place the Muga Reserva Seleccion Especial 2009 onto the Highly Recommended Wines list in the September 2013 issue of the magazine.
None of the respondents foresaw any change in the way they operate as a result of the award. Manuel saw it as being more motivational than anything else. "We will keep on doing what we do at the moment but with a little more motivation as we feel the international recognition for the region."
I queried the respondents as to whether this award placed any pressure on them; either as individuals or for their enterprise asa whole. No one felt that the award brought additional pressure beyond their normal goals and operating parameters. Rather than bringing pressure, the award, Manuel reiterated, was a "great recognition of the long background and the big quality of the wines" that Rioja has been producing for so many years. Amaya thought that some owners might say to their winemakers "I want one of those" but, she understated, "... this is not so easy ..."
The bottom line here is that everyone appears to be happy. "If not me, then let it be someone from my region. If not someone from my region, then let it be a Spanish wine." Each of the respondents had reached out to Cune to congratulate them on the award. Amaya and Rafael had sent congrats through Social Media and Rafael had supplemented this with a call to the winemaker. Manuel has spoken to various levels in Cune and has congratulated the Cune President "who we, of course, know well and appreciate."
In my conversations with Maria about how the award had been received in Rioja, Maria had said: "If I were in their place, I would be proud of a Rioja wine being top wine. I think that they feel that way." She had her colleagues pegged perfectly.
©Wine -- Mise en abyme