In the thread regarding old CVNEs Ray raised a question of whether the quality of Imperial has deteriorated after the introduction of Real de Asua. More and more, I hear this type of proposition stated as a fact rather than a question. I've heard people say, for example, that they will not buy Prado Enea after the introduction of Torre Muga. They are not saying that the like Torre Muga better, only that they are convinced that better grapes that would ordinarily go in to Prado Enea are being diverted to Torre Muga. In most cases, I find this very hard to believe. With respect to CVNE and Muga, for example, I would think that size factors would make any difference infinitesimal. I also presume that in many cases the fruit quality between a vin de garde and the basic reserva is essentially the same, and only the vinification is different. Finally, it seems that basic economics would suggest that a producer would not rob quality from the basic wine -- while we might gasp at some of the prices of the special cuvees, far more money is made (or lost if it doesn't sell) from the basic wine due to the extra volume produced.
Others think I'm crazy and say that they simply take the producers at their word: the best vineyards are devoted to the new prestige wine and simple logic dictates that, if this better fruit formerly was added to the basic wine, that basic wine will now suffer the loss. Perhaps in some rare cases I might see a difference, for example in the Descendientes de José Palacios "Corullón" prior to the single-vineyard effort. I am inclined to think it is the exception rather than the rule. Am I wrong?
Well as you point out it was a question and not a statement of fact!
I have always (and still am) impressed by the winemaking at CVNE/Contino.
However I am less 'trusting' (?) than you.
I have seen my two favourite wine making regions succumb to the special cuvee- Chateauneuf du Pape and Ribera del Duero.
Big bottles and big prices for wines made from grapes that once went into the reserve/basic wines.
Yes you are correct in stating that when talking about huge quantities the difference is surely minimal and in some cases the extra extraction seen in the special cuvees is 'bigger' not better wine. Sure it impresses in tastings bur drinking a full bottle is getting harder and harder.
(I prefer the basic Versino/Bois de Boursan to the Cuvee des Felix in C9 for example)
I'm reluctant to name names (and somewhat unsure of my facts) but for example Emilio Moro now have two vineyard designated wines (both superb) selling for £100 that previously went into Reservas/GR for MUCH less money. If I am incorrect in this I apologise and I re-state the wines are of extremely high quality.
Also I'm not sure about the only difference is the vinification. When I visit wineries they are at pains to stress the best plots are used in the special cuvees.
It is all becoming irrelevant to me as some of these wines have sailed on by as the falling £ means they are now outside my budget. It's crianzas for me for the moment !!!
Funny that you use Emilio Moro as a potential example of a producer's basic wines suffering. I think that all that producer's wine has improved about the time the special cuvee trend started. Before that, I thought their wines had a tendency to be a little bretty. Nevertheless, I suppose this only begs their question of whether the basic wines would be better yet if they did not produce the juice in the heavy bottles.
my point was not that the basic wine 'suffers'. As you point out the entire range is very good. It is as you say at the end of your post- what would they be like if the two top wines were blended in?
Again that house is just one of many.
Usually here and there appears some buzz and gossips about the degrade of the basic wines when newcomers arrive. It looks, in the distance, as a common practice in new areas begin with nice wines, nice QPR and so on... but sometime after appear the new cuvées and ultrapremium cuvées. When this happen the basic wines seems to be seen as secondary wines that doesn't worth their best.
Nobody say it's right or not, but it's usually a topic of discussion on some wines.