NAVARRA’S CALLING CARD

NAVARRA’S CALLING CARD image

By Rose Murray Brown MW   Published in The Scotsman 12 March 2022

 

If there is one region which is benefitting from the world’s new fascination with the Garnacha grape, it is the Kingdom of Navarra in north-east Spain.

In my mind Garnacha has always been Navarra’s calling card – making superb dark rosatos unlike anywhere else in the world - and succulent soft herby reds with a brightness of fruit, lushness and elegance.

But the Garnacha grape, which once used to cover 90% of Navarra’s vineyards, fell out of favour in the 1980s.  With the great vine pull, which was happening worldwide, many old Garnacha bushvines were uprooted in Navarra and replaced in the 1990s with international favourites like Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Merlot.

Old Vine Garnacha El Chapparal Navarra SpainToday – Spain’s native Garnacha is back in fashion.  Plantings are on the rise in this predominantly red-grape region.  Across Navarra’s 11,000 hectares of vineyards, Garnacha is now up to 42% and growing – with Tempranillo at 29% and Cabernet Sauvignon at only 9%.

For the wine tourist, Navarra is a spectacularly diverse region to visit, incorporating spectacular mountain scenery, lush green foothills and arid plains – as well as the best tomatoes, aubergines and peppers I have ever tasted in Spain – with an agreeable temperate climate cooled by sea breezes from Bay of Biscay nearby.

Bearing in mind its proximity to the Pyrenees and the French border, there is understandably a lot of French influence in Navarra.  The French grapes have not been forgotten, but what we are now seeing is a new generation of winemakers in Navarra who have cleverly cracked the code – putting the two together.  They are combining the old native grapes with the new incomers making some stunningly attractive blends – often at remarkably good prices.

One little known fact about Navarra which was really highlighted in our tasting is the quality of its Chardonnay.  It makes some of the best in Spain (look for Chivite and Castillo de Monjardin) – but they are not at all well-known and the prices are eye-poppingly good. Chardonnay has double the number of plantings of the Viura grape in Navarra.

Rosados deserve a mention too as they are some of the best in the world of their type.  One in three roses in Spain come from Navarra.  But there is a problem here.  Navarra’s rosados are deep and dark in colour; sadly this style is not in fashion today in a world that desires paler and paler pinks.  Like many of Navarra’s wines, they are mainly drunk in Spain – but with the superb prices on offer on our shelves they really deserve to be better known elsewhere.

 

NAVARRA TASTE TEST


Castillo Monjardin 2020 Chardonnay Navarra SpainWHITE:  CHARDONNAY 2020 Castillo Monjardin (13%)  ***STAR BUY***
£9.95 Tanners Wine
The quality of this unoaked Chardonnay is astonishing at this price.  It combines such intense citric fruits, with rich tropical fruit flavours with surprisingly good freshness with its bright natural acidity.  Line this up against a higher-priced Macon Chardonnay – and you will see what a bargain this is.


Senorio de Sarria Rosado Navarra SpainROSE: SENORIO DE SARRIA GARNACHA ROSADO 2020 Bodegas de Sarria (14%)
£5.95 The Wine Society; £8.95 North South Wines; All About Wime; ND John Wines
Deep dark rose is popular in Navarra, but out of fashion elsewhere.  Personally I prefer a bit of colour in my pink.  This easy quaffing rose with its ripe raspberry fruits and fresh vibrant palate is a great buy at under £6 – made from Garnacha bushvines grown in Navarra’s smallest Valdizarbe subzone at 500m altitude.


RED:  OLD VINE GARNACHA EL CHAPPARAL 2019 Bodegas Nekeas (15%)  ***STAR VALUE***
£5.99 for six bottles / £10.99 bt Majestic Wine; Graft Wines
Another extraordinary Navarra bargain made from 70-115 year old bush vines.  It might be 15% alcohol but you certainly don’t notice it – cherry and red plum aromas, silky soft tannins, such freshness, appealingly approachable – one of the best value examples of Navarra Garnacha (pictured above).


Garnacha de Montana 2018 Unsi Navarra SpainRED: GARNACHA DE MONTANA 2018 Unsi (15%)
£24 Averys www.averys.com
Subdued aroma, but intense with rich red cherry fruits and very juicy vibrant palate with a soft brush of French oak – lively fresh acidity from its high altitude origin 600-700m in easterly Baja Montana subzone near the Pyrenees


RED: OTAZU PREMIUM CUVEE 2018 Bodegas Otazu (14%)
£11-£12 Gallagher Fine Wines, Peter Graham Wines, Grape to Glass, Honest Wine Co, Vinissimus, Solent Wine Experience
Closest in style to Bordeaux with its percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon (42%) and Merlot (25%) – with a Spanish twist with remainder Tempranillo – aged 12 months in French oak.  Vivid fruity aromas of black plums and blackcurrants, velvety texture with some gripping tannins – ideal for serving with roast lamb.


Pago de Larrainzar Single Vineyard Navarra SpainRED: RASO DE LARRAINZAR SINGLE VINEYARD RESERVA 2013 Bodegas Pago de Larrainzar (14%)   ***STAR BUY***
£13.88 Artisan Food Company
Very attractive blend of Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot & Garnacha from a historic estate in westerly Tierra Estella subzone.  Bright cherry fruits, rich chewy concentrate palate with rounded finish, well integrated balanced wine aged 14 months in French oak (20% new).


Join Rose’s wine & charcuterie tastings in Edinburgh, Glasgow & St Andrews www.rosemurraybrown.com