Wines of Navarra

 

Asia House, 63 New Cavendish Street, London W1G 7LP - 29 November 2016

 

The Wines of Navarra masterclass was hosted by Jordi Vidal, General Manager of the Regulatory Council of the Designation of Origin Navarra, in conjunction with Patrick Schmidt MW, Editor-in-Chief at The Drinks Business.

 

It was held in one of the stunning conference rooms at Asia House, a beautiful grade II listed Georgian townhouse with high ceilings and restored period features.

 

The Navarra DO is located in the middle of the Ebro Valley in northern Spain and has a history of vine growing and winemaking dating back more than two millennia.  Nowadays, the focus is firmly around creating fresh new wines reflective of the terroir.  The Navarra DO offers a diverse range of wines including young whites from Viura and a blend of Viura and Chardonnay, together with some full-bodied oaked and unoaked Chardonnays.  It also produces some highly aromatic rosés using mainly Garnacha, but also Tempranillo, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.  Only red grapes are used to produce rosés which are made by the traditional ‘saignée’ method of bleeding the berries.  In terms of red wines, the region offers youthful examples from Garnacha or Tempranillo, together with fuller-bodied Crianzas, Reservas and Gran Reservas.  Naturally sweet wines are made from Moscatel de Grano Menudo and the region also produces the more powerful and incredibly complex fortified, traditional styles of sweet wine.

 

The Navarro DO is divided into 5 smaller sub-regions: Estella, Valdizarbe and Baja Montaña are all located in the north where it is cooler and more humid.  The Ribera Alta is the central region where the weather is warmer and drier, and further south is the semi-arid climate of the Ribera Baja.  In total, the 5 sub-regions producing Navarra DO wines cover some 11,500 hectares which equates to just over 1% of vineyards in Spain.  The region boasts around 2,500 growers, 90 wineries, and the average property covers around 4 hectares.

 

Climate is continental with long, hot, dry summers followed by cold winters.  The northern sub-zones have some Atlantic influences and rainfall averages around 625mm per year, with the risk of frost at higher altitudes.

 

Soils are a mix of clay, limestone, sand and pebbles and 90% of the grapes grown are red.  Tempranillo is the most important, closely followed by Garnacha.  For whites, Chardonnay is dominant.

 

Navarra is also considered a gastronomic region and known as the “fruit and vegetable region of Spain”.  It has several Denominación de Origen appellations for its foods including smoky piquillo peppers, tender lettuces, artichokes, asparagus, borage and leeks.

 

Viños Alex, “Alex” Garnacha Rosé, 2015

Alcohol: 13.9%                                   Ageing: Fermented at cold temperature for 25 days

Grape(s): Garnacha                             Region: Corella, Ribera Baja

A bone dry rosé with aromas and flavours of boiled sweets and summer fruits.  This weightless rosé is ripe and juicy with fresh acidity.

 

Castillo de Monjardin, “El Cerezo”, Chardonnay Unoaked, 2015

Alcohol: 13%                                      Ageing: 2 months in stainless steel

Grape(s): Chardonnay                         Region: Villamayor de Monjardin, Estella

This is a crisp, citrusy Chardonnay with lots of ripe fruit and good levels of acidity.  Some stone fruit flavours on the palate make this comparable to a Mâcon.  It is extremely elegant, with a long finish.

 

Bodegas Malón de Echaide, Blanco Fermentado en Barrica, 2015

Alcohol: 13.5%                                   Ageing: 2 months in barrel

Grape(s): Chardonnay                         Region: Cintruénigo, Ribera Alta

A creamy ripe and generously balanced Chardonnay with citrus, stone and tropical fruits, a good structure and well integrated oak.  This is reminiscent of a South African Chardonnay.

 

Bodegas Nekeas, El Chaparral, 2013

Alcohol: 14%                                      Ageing: 5/6 months in barrel

Grape(s): Garnacha                             Region: Añorbe, Valdizarbe

This wine was produced by a new generation co-operative established around 20 years ago and is made from 100 year old vines.  It is extremely light for a Spanish red, somewhat Pinot Noir in style, with aromas and flavours of orange peel and fresh herbs.  It is quite rustic with lots of personality and great acidity.

 

Marco Real, Pequeñas Producciones Garnacha, 2014

Alcohol: 15%                                      Ageing: 5 months in barrel

Grape(s): Garnacha                             Region: Olite, Ribera Alta

This soft, ripe, plummy red has similarities to Pinot Noir but more warmth, sour cherries and a dash of white pepper.  It has excellent acidity and is a bit fuller in style than the previous wine.  I would compare this to a Châteauneuf-du-Pape. 

 

Bodegas Máximo Abete, Guerinda Navasentero 3+1, 2012

Alcohol: 15%                                      Ageing: 20 months in barrel

Grape(s): Graciano                              Region: San Martín de Unx, Baja Montaña

3+1 comes from the producers who are 3 partners and 1 friend/consultant.  This wine is organic and has a deeper colour and fuller structure than the previous reds.  It is ripe and plummy with high levels of acidity and the tannins are noticeably firmer.

 

Bodega Inurrieta, Inurrieta Cuatrocientos Crianza, 2013

Alcohol: 14.5%                                   Ageing: 14 months in barrel

Grape(s): Cabernet Sauvignon,             Region: Falces, Ribera Alta

Syrah, Graciano, Garnacha and Merlot

This wine is distinctly Cabernet on the nose, followed by cigar box, cedar and blackcurrant leaf.  It is smoky, with dense tannins, a mixture of black and red fruits and a very long finish.  It is reminiscent of a left-bank Bordeaux.

 

Bodegas Príncipe de Viana, Limited Edition, 2012

Alcohol: 14%                                      Ageing: 14 months in barrel

Grape(s): Merlot, Tempranillo               Region: Murchante, Ribera Baja

and Cabernet Sauvignon

This is Merlot dominant with aromas of luscious red jam, vanilla, grainy tannins and ripe red fruit.  A “pimped Rioja” style, this wine has a good structure and excellent ageing potential.

 

Bodegas Alconde, Viña Sardasol Crianza, 2012

Alcohol: 13.5%                                   Ageing: 12 months in barrel

Grape(s): Tempranillo                         Region: Lerín, Ribera Alta

With ripe strawberries, great acidity, soft ripe tannins and sweet oak, this wine is vibrant, fresh, alive and well balanced.  It is a new wave Rioja style and represents excellent value for money.

 

Bodegas Ochoa, Javier Ochoa Series, Ochoa Reserva, 2009

Alcohol: 14%                                      Ageing: 12 months in barrel

Grape(s): Tempranillo,                         Region: Olite, Ribera Alta

Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot

From a family run winery which has now been handed down to two daughters, this wine is an excellent example of how well Navarra reds can age.  With cedar, cigar box, leather and truffles on the nose, red fruits, and grainy tannins, this has depth and complexity.  This is a stunning wine now which will improve further with age. 

 

Bodega Otazu, Altar, 2007

Alcohol: 14%                                      Ageing: 18 months in barrel

Grape(s): Cabernet Sauvignon              Region: Echauri, Valdizarbe

and Merlot

Mushrooms and truffles on the nose, savoury complexity, heaps of black fruit, cedar, tobacco, black pepper and spices.  This is a very ripe Cabernet dominated wine with mouth-coating ripe structured tannins and a long finish.  Highly recommended!

 

In summary, all of the wines displayed ripe fruit and fresh acidity.  The Navarra DO excels in producing wines from both indigenous and international grapes and often successfully blends the two.  It produces delicious light modern styles of rosé, oaked and unoaked whites, and ripe fruit forward reds capable of ageing.

 

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