One of Spain’s most diverse and ancient wine regions, Navarra was always proudly independent. The last kingdom to be integrated into greater Spain in 1512, to this day it is allowed to set its own taxes – the only other state with this distinction is the Basque country.
It is a huge region, extending 100km south from Pamplona and encompassing a variety of different climates. Cool in the north, dry continental in the centre, and a more Mediterranean climate in the south. Soils are generally poor and well-drained, varying from shallow sandy loam, limestone, and clay to gravel, and in some cases, extremely rocky.
Sitting beside Spain’s most recognised brand Rioja has been a mixed blessing for Navarra. For many years Garnacha was by far the most planted grape variety. It produces a fine, light style of Rose which has been famous for centuries and beloved by the Spanish and English market. A victim of its own success, Navarra churned out vast quantities and unfortunately, quality suffered with consequent damage to the reputation of wines from this region while neighbouring Rioja went from strength to strength.
Accounting for over 90% of Navarra’s vineyards in 1980, Garnacha production had fallen to around 25%, however, and here is the key, the quality of these Garnacha’s is now vastly improved and they are gaining broader recognition worldwide.
Hallmark Garnacha exhibits raspberry, red cherry and bright acidity. It is a grape variety that expresses Terroir beautifully, producing light reds with fresh natural acidity in the cooler north and rounder styles with less acidity but more robust tannins in the south.
Navarra now also produces Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay and Tempranillo, making some fine, concentrated wines, typically aged in American oak which offer great value.
Many vineyards in Navarra are now farming organically and as this sector continues to grow, it is likely to benefit the region significantly and may help it to finally distinguish itself from its neighbours. We wish it well.
Two here from Bodegas Zorzal (meaning song thrush). Founded in 1989 with the aim of rescuing the indigenous varieties of the area.
Viña Zorzal Garnacha: 100% Organic Garnacha. A clear, medium intensity, ruby colour wine. Intense aromas of red fruit such as raspberry, strawberry, red cherry and black pepper. On the palate, it is dry and fresh with soft tannins and medium body with a long finish. Food pairing: Long slow-cooked roasts of pork or lamb, charcuterie, paella. Ideally serve between 16 º and 18 ºC. €12.95
Viña Zorzal Graciano: 100% Organic Graciano. Aged for 9 months on its lees in French oak barrels. Intense fresh aromas of black fruit with some black pepper and cedar notes on the palate. A lovely long finish. Food pairing: Spiced lamb, grilled chorizo, BBQ, figs, blue cheese. Ideally serve between 16 º and 18ºC. €15.95
All the wines mentioned are available instore.