Navarra – A Wine Region of Diversity

Feb 24, 14 Navarra – A Wine Region of Diversity

Posted by in All, Spain, Travel

When one thinks of Spanish wines, Rioja immediately springs to mind but that’s not the only game in town. I visited the region of Navarra which is just north of Rioja last Autumn and found a diverse and exciting wine region. A region that is producing great value for money wines. Navarra has been producing wines for centuries but after they were wiped out by phylloxera in the late 19th century, they never regained their former glory. Even today, there are only 12,000 hectares under vine whereas pre-phylloxera they had 50,000 vines. Nowadays, if people are familiar with Navarra’s wines, it is with their lovely and spicy rosados. Made from tempranillo and garnacha, the rosados can range from delicate with ripe red fruit flavours to robust and spicy. Unlike Rioja, Navarra doesn’t specialize in one particular grape. While some might see this as a negative, it does allow the growers of the region to produce a variety of wines. The reds of Navarra are made from widely grown varieties in Spain – tempranillo, graciano and mazuela as well as international varieties such as cabernet sauvignon and even merlot. We visited quite a few bodegas on our trip, here are some highlights, except for Bodegas Ochoa which I’ve written about separately here. Bodegas Inurrieta, located in the Ribera Alta, the winery has its vineyards at 380 to 400 metres and they produce fresh and exciting wines. The wines are made in a modern, approachable style and are of an excellent quality. Bodegas Senorio de Sarria is in the Valdizabe region and set amongst rolling hills. I first came across their wines a few years ago here in London and ever since I’ve kept a lookout for them. The winery is a blend of modern and new, with the old cement tanks as part of the decor. There is a beautiful small chapel next to the winery which was built exclusively for the family and has a wonderful series of mosaics covering its walls. I liked...

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A harvest time visit to Bodegas Ochoa in Navarra

Feb 21, 14 A harvest time visit to Bodegas Ochoa in Navarra

Posted by in All, Spain, Travel

Last Autumn, I visited the region of Navarra in Spain. Navarra is a bit off the beaten path except for the annual St. Fermin festival, better known as The Running of the Bulls, which takes place through the streets of the capital of the region, Pamplona. Pamplona has a lovely Palacio in the main square as well as great medieval architecture. It’s easy to imagine the bulls running through the narrow streets and the adrenaline rush that goes along with it. There are of course lots of great little tapas bars. I do love  jamon, manchego cheese, chorizo and all the other tapas that are best with the wines of Spain – especially the wines of Navarra.   I had met Adriana Ochoa last Spring here in London so when I saw that a visit to Ochoa was on our itinerary of vineyards, I was excited to see Adriana again and taste more of her wines. The Ochoa family have been making wine in Navarra for several centuries and Adriana and her sister are the next generation have take over. The current incarnation of Ochoa was founded in 1908. During lunch, Adriana explained a bit of the history of Navarra and their vineyard as well as their wine making philosophy. Adriana is one of the new generation of Spanish winemakers who have travelled around the world doing stints at various vineyards and she has brought back and implemented a few new innovations. Their vineyards are outside the medieval town of Olite and as we were there during harvest, we got to visit the vineyards and even take a ride on a mechanical harvester. Afterward we went back to the winery and watched while they unloaded the  just harvested grapes and even got a taste of literally ‘free run juice’. As a side note, Olite has an awesome castle and medieval city centre and is worth a visit on its own. Over lunch we sampled the various wines that Ochoa make, including a rose and...

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Wines of Navarra, more than just rosado wine

Apr 02, 12 Wines of Navarra, more than just rosado wine

Posted by in Spain

I’m quite familiar with the wines of Navarra, they’re all about rosé wines, right? Yes and no. Turns out there’s a lot more to the region then their robustly coloured rosado wines. The Wines of Navarra were in town last week to promote the region and give, me at least, a taster of their wines. Turns out they have been producing wine for centuries, going back to the 10th century and their wines flourished throughout Spain for many years in part thanks, to their position on the Pilgrim’s Route to Santiago de Campostela, Navarra being identified with their rosado wines made from the garnacha grape. I do like the rosados of Navarra – full bodied and spicy, brightly coloured but dry, these are certainly not your wimpy, sweet California Blossom Hill style rose wines. That’s probably why I like them, wines that were made to quench your thirst as well as be served up with a rustic meal of jamon and cheese with a hunk of bread on the side. I found out though, that since the 1990’s Navarra has undergone a sea change in wine making, not abandoning the rosados but adding international grape varieties like chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon and merlot. What was most interesting was that these grape varieties had existed in Navarra in the past due to the large French influence of Bordeaux winemakers in the 19th century but had been lost when phylloxera hit the region in the late 1800’s. They still of course grow the traditional viura, tempranillo and garnacha but now are able to blend in the international varieties if they so desire. I tasted a chardonnay/viura blend, full of tropical fruit but having a nice dry finish as well as discovering the latest addition to the region, sauvignon blanc. I spoke to the Consul General of the region, Jordi Vidal, and he told me that sauvingnon blanc is the next big thing in the region. He cited the milder climate of the region which produces good acidity...

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Latest podcast- Japanese koshu, Rioja and the wines of Navarra

Mar 26, 12 Latest podcast- Japanese koshu, Rioja and the wines of Navarra

Posted by in Asia, Podcast, Spain

This episode features one of Japan’s few female winemakers, Ayana Misawa, 5th generation winemaker for Grace winery (“Chuo Budoshu” in Japanese). I met Ayana at the annual Koshu of Japan tasting, held in London in late February 2012 and she sat down to tell me a bit more about the history of the koshu grape in Japan. In the UK market, Rioja is one of the most reliable and dependable wines around. However, the Spanish have woken up to the fact that they need to innovate and I met up with the winemaker for one of the centenary wineries of Rioja, Bodagas Bilbainas. Rioja has a number of wineries that are over one hundred years old but that hasn’t stopped them from looking at innovative or different ways of making their wine. Diego Pinella Navarro, head wine maker, is part of the new generation taking Rioja wines into the future. Lastly, I move up a bit further north to the wines of Navarra. Navarra is situated just north of Rioja but other then the rosés of the region, most people don’t know much about the wines. I chatted with the Consul General of the D.O.  Jordi Vidal when he was in London last week to find out more about what’s going on there, both with the traditional varieties they have always used as well as some newer ones. And, the regions wine making connections with France…. Any questions or comments, just leave me a note in the comment section. Find the podcast on iTunes: or Podomatic if you don’t have iTunes: Share this:TwitterFacebookLinkedInPocketRedditGoogleTumblrEmailPrintPinterestLike this:Like...

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