Kingdom of Navarra

The wines of Navarra have always played second fiddle to its more renowned big brother La Rioja. In truth, tempranillo, the grape that defines Spanish wine should be the torchbearer for what is great and typical to drink from Spain. Winemakers from Navarra have been carving out their own niche for some time now, as evidenced by the sparkling 2001 vintage. The wines showed maturity, structure, and length, as well as spicy flavors and good fruit. On January 22nd , at the W Union Square Hotel, the Kingdom of Navarra presented the wines that are currently being showcased in the U.S. Some of the winemakers even came along to promote their craft.

The tasting was well designed in that there were only thirty tables to choose from. The whites included chardonnay and chard/viura blends, most of which were oaked to some degree. I preferred the pure chardonnays because of their weight and structure. The blends seemed a bit too acidic on the palate. The offering from Inurrieta received my vote for best tasting chardonnay.

The rosados were mostly garnacha, a staple grape in Navarra. These wines on the whole were lovely to drink, juicy and minerally, steely and often complex. The Chivite rosado was full-bodied and dry, the leader among the pack.

There were several red grapes represented, and I felt that the wines had a certain harmonious unity in terms of flavor profile and winemaking. Some blends were very successful, such as graciano/garnacha, or cabernet/garnacha. Senorio de Sarria makes a 100% graciano, as well as mazuelo. These wines were funky, earthy, and had a tart finish. I quite enjoyed the “dirtiness”.

Many of the wines were of the 2004 vintage which seems to be shaping up quite nicely. Some of the ’04 wines need more time in the bottle. I don’t believe it will measure up to 2001, but the quality of winemaking is still improving in Navarra and the rest of Spain.

Since the New York Times panel tasting of March 2007, I am very encouraged by the majority effort from Navarra. At the current price point combined with a small aging potential window, these are wines of value that should grace your local wine or shopping lists more frequently in the near future.