Inside La Place – “My passion for Tempranillo” 

Victor Urrutia

CEO Compania Vinicola del Norte de Espana

 Compañía Vinícola del Norte de España was founded in 1897 by the brothers Real de Asúa.

The company is one of the leading wine companies in Spain and owns close to 800 hectares of vineyards across the best villages and appellations in Spain.


Gerda: Your family founded CVNE in 1879, can you tell us more about you?

Victor Urrutia: Good question, but I don’t think it is interesting to talk about myself. My background is quite ordinary. 

I never expected to become the CEO of CVNE. The previous chairman was my uncle Luis, who had been running CVNE since the late sixties. Quite unexpectedly, in 2002 his health deteriorated and he decided to step down. The natural successor would have been my father Victor (I’m the third one in a row, there’s another one after me) but he was too busy working on other projects. So he asked me to run CVNE.

At first, I said no. I was in my twenties. I was working as a management consultant for a US company, living in Brazil while working on a project with a local company. I was single and enjoying my life in Sao Paulo. I did not want to return to Spain and work in a small company where all the top management had been working there since before I was born. I breezily told him that I wasn’t interested. There weren’t actually that many other candidates for the position within the family. All other available family members were too young.

My father insisted, that what was initially a friendly offer became a request, first friendly, then firm. I eventually accepted, out of a sense of responsibility to my family. I agreed to do the job for one year. But one problem or opportunity led to another and the job was never done. So here I am after 21 years. I’m very privileged to have this job, as they say never have regrets in life, only about things you haven’t done.

Gerda: What are the main challenges you personally face in your work?

Victor Urrutia: My main challenge is to improve the quality of Real de Asúa, a wine we have been producing since 1994 as a tribute to the two Real de Asúa brothers who founded the company in the 19th century and one of which is my great- great grandfather. This wine represents our legacy. Since 2018, it has been a single plot selection from just 2.37 hectares planted with 30-year-old Tempranillo vines. This plot is located in the Carromaza vineyard at an altitude of more than 500 meters, making a unique terroir to which we are fully dedicated.

A second challenge for me is how to introduce Real de Asúa across the world.


Vintage 2020


Gerda: Can you describe in a few words vintage 2020 (released last September)

Victor Urrutia: Grapes were hand-harvested on September 9th 2020 at Carromaza. They were placed into 300 kg crates which were then stored in a refrigerated trailer at 10ºC until their transfer to the winery, a couple kilometers away.

There was a double selection of the grapes, first in the vineyard and later on arrival at the winery. Whole grapes were held at a cold temperature and very gently crushed the following day and then gravity-fed into a small, five-year-old French oak vat. Wild yeasts were used, with punching down to manage the cap and following the alcoholic fermentation, taking place at 28-29ºC, the wine macerated on its skins. The time for draining the vat was determined through tasting.

The wine was then racked to new French oak barrels where the malolactic fermentation occurred. Subsequently, the wine was racked into new and one-year French oak old barrels.

Milder temperatures during the year reduced the growing season over previous years’ average by around 15 days. No snow over the winter, and importantly, no spring frost. Very healthy fruit set and harvest. Higher rainfall than the average for the village of Villalba. As a result, yields were somewhat higher than previous years’ for this particular plot. A fresh, cool vintage.

Real de Asúa today and tomorrow


Gerda: What positioning do you want for your brand?

Victor Urrutia: Real de Asúa needs to be the faithful expression of Tempranillo planted in a truly exceptional vineyard, and as a result, it should become one of the best Spanish wines. This is the vision I have for it. Staying humble in our pursuit of this goal will not be too challenging because I have great confidence in this project. Furthermore, at CVNE, we have a long history and extensive experience in winemaking, and we are fully committed to putting in all necessary efforts to achieve our objective.

G: How do your wines stand out and are unique?

Victor Urrutia: Real de Asúa is unique because it is in contrast to the traditional Gran Reserva Rioja wines. While our Gran Reserva tend to come from various vineyards and are aged for a long time in oak, Real de Asúa takes a different approach. It represents the pure expression of the terroir through the vehicle of an old Tempranillo plant. The wine is wonderfully complex, floral, intense, and possesses refined freshness with a lot of finesse. A triumph!

G: Which of your recent achievements would you like to share with your customers?

Victor Urrutia: I immediately think about the success of our first release through La Place de Bordeaux of the 2019 vintage. It has been the most significant achievement of this exceptional wine, and I strongly believe that 2020 will follow suit. In my opinion, the 2020 vintage is even better than 2019. But not as good as the 2021.

G: What future projects are you currently working on? (technical, marketing, or commercial)

Victor Urrutia: We have bought the Albariño estate in the Rias Baixas appellation called La Val, as well as a property there which brings our vineyard holdings in that appellation to 101 hectares. But this has nothing to do with Real de Asúa! It serves as a vivid contrast to the little Carromaza vineyard from which we make Real de Asúa. Although just over 2 hectares, Carromaza is quite special and fully understanding it has taken us decades. The challenge is still there, though. We have to continue expressing the terroir as best as we can – in the vineyard throughout the season, at harvest, in the cellar, and in the choice of wood. It’s over 100 different small decisions and they all add up.  I’m equally proud of this as well as the Albariño project which is 50 times larger in terms of volume.

G: Where is your property in terms of “ecological transition”?

Victor Urrutia: Real de Asúa is not certified but we make every effort to minimize the use of treatments. It would be nice to be certified but it is not our goal. What you say is less important than what you do, and are.

The business


Gerda: Real de Asúa is released after two vintages on La Place de Bordeaux. Why have you made this choice?

Victor Urrutia: We believe that one of the finest wines of Spain should be distributed by the world’s top wine-selling organization. It’s as simple as that.

G: What are your business priorities?

Victor UrrutiaOur primary commercial priority is to increase the global recognition of Real de Asúa, and we aim to achieve this through our partnership with La Place de Bordeaux. We hope to gain global recognition and awareness.

The real business priority is to ensure that the company and Real de Asúa are in the best possible position when our time is up and it is time to pass everything on to the next generation

G: What sales support materials are available to distributors to promote your wines?

Victor Urrutia: We have a website where you can find comprehensive information about each of our wines, including videos, maps and more… You can explore the history of my family and discover the exceptional terroir of Real de Asúa. We are active on various social networks. Distributors can contact our export manager Morgan Da Cunha for all information they may require at


Favorite bottle of Victor Urrutia


Gerda: If you had one bottle of your heart?

Victor UrrutiaIt would be a very large bottle of Corona 1939. This is a semi-sweet white wine that was a bit of a fluke. The story goes back to the end of the Spanish Civil in 1939 when there were no men available to do the harvest. The fruit was left hanging on the vine until very late into the year. During this time, there was a very rare outbreak of noble rot, which is not frequent in Rioja Alta, and women were finally found and available to take on the task of harvesting the white berries. The wine was vinified, placed in barrels, and promptly forgotten. 

The 5 barrels of this exceptional wine were discovered by my uncle Luis when he conducted an inventory in 1970. He loved the wine and decided to bottle it. Once again, the wine was forgotten about.

In 1994, my cousin Sofia was planning her wedding, thinking about which wine to serve with lobster during the dinner. Her father, my uncle Luis had a brainwave and remembered the Corona 1939, slumbering away in our cellars.

The decision was made to serve the Corona semi-sweet 1939. The wine turned out to be magnificent and has continued to improve with time. It was the first white wine from Spain to receive a perfect score of 100 points from The Wine Advocate, marking an unforgettable and extraordinary moment that I will never forget.

Gerda BEZIADE has an incredible passion for wine, and possesses a perfect knowledge of Bordeaux acquired within prestigious wine merchants for 25 years. Gerda joins Roland Coiffe & Associés in order to bring you, through  “Inside La PLACE” more information about the estate we sell.