I did finally open the 1959 Vina Real, along with a 1985 Tondonia and 1985 Contino. The 1959 was the best wine of the night and very surprising because it was far more vibrant and youthful than I expected. It actually needed 30 minutes in the glass before it developed, and it continued to evolve in small ways for about at least 3 hours or so. Even after that much time, it only showed signs of getting relatively tired and less expressive, rather than collapsing completely. The tertiary aromas and flavors that dominated the a 1959 Paternina that I recently tried were only slightly suggested in the Vina Real, which was more dominated by plum and balsamic notes and almost Rhone-like spiciness. Even the structure of the wine was surprisingly firm and could easily last much longer.
Hello all... must confess I had forgotten the English side of Verema existed :-)
Obviously not a CVNE wine, but I tried the Monte Real 1950 at the weekend and it was awesome - I could hardly believe how youthful and vibrant this tasted! The only other wine I have had of a vaguely comparable age, a Léoville-Barton (admittedly a 1934), showed its age by comparison. Fabulous stuff. I bought a bottle of the 78, which wasn't quite in the same league but was still a glorious wine.
I'm not sure I agree that it is completely lost. I have not lost faith in many of the older producers such as Cune. I still think that the great modern vintages of Muga Prado Enea, for another example, will be long lived. Certainly there is no reason to believe that anything has changed López de Heredia because, well, quite literally nothing has changed. True, some formerly great producers like Paternina seem to have deteriated. And then, of course, we have all the modern producers. Some of these modern wines seem not to be lasting. Others are aging very well, but we don't have enough experience yet to determine what they will be like after several decades. I've been struck before by how the oldest vintages of Torre Muga are quite identifiable as Rioja notwithstanding the modern style.
I wonder whether it is too easy to romantacize about the Rioja of the past when we enjoy a great old bottle. But what was the overall quality of the region's output in 1954 or 1964? How much bulk wine, relative to today, was produced? How often in the past were large numbers of producers in Rioja determined to be the cheapest decent, but not great, wine available in international markets? I don't really know the answer to these questions but I suspect that an argument can be made that the overall situation has improved relative to the past.