I may begin to sound like a broken record when I talk about this, but I continue to be amazed by just how many little known wine regions in Spain are producing great wines and amazing values. Slowly but surely, wines from Jumilla, Montsant, Toro, Ribera del Duero, Rias Baixas, Calatayud, and others are starting to find their way onto the shelves of American retailers. Thanks to one of my favorite NYC wine shops, Despana Vinos Y Mas, in Soho I am able to get a wide variety of wines from all these regions as well as some gems from many other Spanish regions. Today's subject is an old vine Garnacha from the Navarra region of North Central Spain. Navarra neighbors the much more well known region of Rioja, and Navarra's fame as a region so far has a lot more to do with bull fighting than it does wine. Pamplona, famous for the festival of San Fermin and the annual running of the bulls, is in the region, although it is just a few miles north of the official D.O. Navarra boundary.
Most of the grapes grown in Navarra are red varietals, and Garnacha and Tempranillo make up over three quarters of the plantings in the region. The D.O. also allows Graciano, Mazuelo, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon as well as a couple white varietals. Historically the region made a lot of rose wines or rosados as the Spanish call them, but in recent years they have moved away from high yield, not so great rosados to lower yield and high quality reds. Like Rioja to the west, Navarra not only has wines that are all Tempranillo or all Garnacha, but also many blends that have both or other blending grapes included. Soils in the region typically have gravel and chalky limestone, but there is a wide range of altitudes that produce very different results in different microclimates within the region.
Unfortunately Navarra wines are still pretty difficult to find, but the few that I have been able to source here in the US have all been quite good. Hopefully as more people discover these hidden gems, more importers and retailers will start bringing these wines to a wine shop near you. For now we will have to live with what we can find, like the outstanding El Chaparral de Vega Sindoa Navarra.
In your glass the wine is deep garnet red in color. It brings great blackberry and raspberry fruit on the nose along with some caramel and a subtle and pleasant earthiness. In your mouth the wine has much less weight than I expected based on the intense color and bouquet. The flavors include some delicious mixed red and black berries along with some sour cherry fruit. This is all balanced against a frame of smooth tannins, great acidity and pleasant minerality. This is a wine that is built for food. It has the tannins to stand up to grilled red meats, but a light enough weight and the right balance to go with a wide variety of food. It would work well with any Spanish tapas and is perfect for a 12 month or older aged Manchego cheese.
Overall this wine is a really food friendly red that is very versatile and can be had for about $15. Go get this one by the case! Its not easy to find this complete and well balanced a wine for this price.