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In 1879, with the phylloxera crisis decimating French vineyards and wine production, two brothers in Rioja, Eusebio and Raimundo Real de Asua sensed a business opportunity. The brothers decided to open a new winery next to the train station in Haro, reasoning that they could ship their wines by rail to nearby Spanish ports and from there by boat to Bordeaux and France. They named their new enterprise Compania Vinicola del Norte de Espana or CVNE.
They ordered and prepaid for labels for their new wine and were surprised when they came back as CUNE. The printer had assumed that the V was a mistake and changed it to a U. The brothers, being practical men, decided to keep the labels and thus CUNE was born. The new winery was a success, and needing to expand, they hired Gustave Eiffel (yes that Eiffel) to build a barrel aging facility with no internal columns to facilitate operations. That building with the original iron trusses is still in use today. CVNE continued to grow and expand - and 140 years later -its holdings include Imperial, Vina Real, and Contino in addition to CUNE. Nevertheless, it is still owned by descendants of the original founders, and despite its size, continues to emphasize quality and value. This week's wine epitomizes this commitment.
When you think of Spanish wine you might think of Tempranillo, the grape responsible for Rioja's often long lived red wines. However, it is CUNE's Monopole Clasico Blanco Seco that's the oldest white wine brand in Spain, produced since 1915. Crafted in small quantities, the 2016 is composed primarily of Viura with a generous helping of Manzanilla added after fermentation. This delicate fino Sherry provided by the Hidalgo family spends time aging biologically under the tender veil of yeast (Flor) that is unique to Sanlúcar de Barrameda. This helps create the wine's irresistable sherry-like characteristics, adding aromas of chamomile, dried fruits, and a long and persistent finish. The bracing acidity is Monopole Clasico's hallmark and its fresh, clean acid is wrapped in velvet creating a memorable mouthfeel. Golden yellow, the wine is intense and expressive with aromatics of chamomile, nuts, and yeast with a hint of lemon. On the palate it is dry, with briny salinity that begs for food like grilled fish, ham, nuts, or a hard nutty cheese and olives.