Navarra is Spain’s northernmost political region, bordering France, with which it shares the Pyrenées mountains. It’s a diverse region with a highly varied topography that includes snow-capped mountains, the plains of the Ebro River valley, and even Europe’s only desert. It offers an incredible diversity of growing conditions, which explains in part the relatively large number of varietals that can be grown well. We traveled to Navarra for our Report #18 Wines of Navarra, which we published several years ago. Recently, the Navarra D.O. initiated an effort to improve the marketing of Navarra wines in the US (see www.navarrawine.us) . It thus seems an opportune time to reacquaint ourselves with some of the wineries that we visited a few years ago. The wines we review here are popularly priced wines of extremely good value. In addition to these wines, Navarra produces wines that compete with the best in the world, as we showed in our earlier report.
Wineries and Their Wines
Bodegas Ochoa Bodegas Ochoa is a family run firm located in Olite, Ribera Alta, the center of the D.O. Navarra, and the ancient capital of the kingdom of Navarra. The Ochoa family has a long history of winemaking in Navarra; documents record sales of wine to the royal family as early as 1370. In more recent times, Javier Ochoa helped resuscitate the Navarra wine industry in his twelve years as Director of EVENA (Navarra Viticultural and Enological Research Center). Today, Bodegas Ochoa produces a number of wines sourced entirely from its own vineyards (143 hectares) Continuing the Ochoa tradition, Adriana, daughter of Javier and Mariví, has now assumed the mantel of chief winemaker while her sister, Beatriz, manages the commercial side of the winery. U.S. Importer: Frontier Wine Imports, Dover, NJ
Ochoa 2016 Calendas Garnacha Rosado Navarra ($11) 88 Medium dark pink. The Ochoa Rosé has a lovely nose evoking freshly picked ripe strawberries still warm from the sun. The wine is straightforward with a lively palate, bright acidity, and good extract on the finish.
Ochoa 2016 Calendas Blanco Blend Navarra ($11) 89 This is an attractive blend of Chardonnay (50%), Viura (43%), and Moscatel de Gran Menudo (7%). It reveals aromas of citrus, garden herbs, and minerals. It’s a flavorful, balanced wine with citrus flavors and a chalky, rich finish. Excellent value!
Ochoa 2011 Tempranillo Crianza Navarra ($17) 90 This single vineyard Tempranillo from the Finca Santa Cruz offers surprising elegance for the price. Earthy dark cherry is married to notes of tobacco and vanilla on a suave palate with fine, firm tannins.
Ochoa 2008 Reserva Single Vineyard Red Blend Navarra ($25) 92 This wine continues with the Ochoa tradition of offering wines of excellent value as well as quality. It’s a complex wine with a bouquet of smoky oak and dark cherry with nuances of tobacco, cinammon and vanilla and layers of flavors on a silky palate . This wine is ready to drink now. A blend of 55% Tempranillo, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 15% Merlot aged 12 months in American oak barriques.
Castillo de Monjardín The Bodega is located in a privileged area for grape-growing, in the San Esteban valley, a winemaking area within Tierra Estella. It was founded in 1988, with the goal of reviving an old family tradition. It owns 220 ha of vineyards in the northwest of Navarra in the foothills of the Pyrenées. Castillo de Monjardin has had special success with its Chardonnays and young reds. Victor del Villar is the winemaker. Importer: Winebow Montvale, NJ
Castillo Monjardin 2015 El Cerezo Unoaked Chardonnay Navarra ($13) 89 El Cerezo is a flavorful wine with good varietal character. It has an emphatic nose of lychee and pear with nuances of citrus and apple blossom and offers a very fruity yet crisp attack with melon and orchard fruit on the palate. Good balancing acidity gives the wine an appealing freshness.
Castillo Monjardin 2015 La Cantera Garnacha Navarra ($13) 89 An easy drinking wine with a rich fruity nose of strawberry, plum, and earth. There’s good depth of red fruit with a touch of black tea flavor, finishing medium long. An excellent pairing with pizza.
Castillo Monjardin 2013 Origen Coupage Selección Crianza Navarra ($15) 90 This medium weight Crianza red blend is softly textured with round tannins and ready to drink now. It offers dark cherry fruit with touches of smoke and underbrush. Aged in French and American oak for 12 months.
Bodega Vega del Castillo In 1910, after the phylloxera crisis, Navarra’s first cooperative—the Bodega Cooperative Olitense—was formed. In 1999, this cooperative merged with two others in Ujué and Pitillas to create a new cooperative named Bodega Vega del Castillo. This winery now has more than 345 members farming over 900 hectares of vineyards in Ribera Alta. The wines are well made and are offered at attractive prices. US Importer: IPV Trading
Vega del Castillo 2013 Capa Roja Tempranillo Roble Navarra ($11) 89 Attractive dark cherry with hints of chocolate and loam are revealed in this satisfying, straightforward, medium weight wine. It’s smooth with firm tannins and a nice long pure finish.
Vega del Castillo 2014 Garnacha Cepas Viejas Navarra ($10) 91 This impressive wine made from 60+ year old bush vines is quite simply an astounding value. The nose reveals smoky wood spice with notes of licorice and red and black berries. It has a smooth attack and excellent concentration, showing rich flavors of dark red fruit, cocoa powder, and charred oak. It’s difficult to believe a wine this good sells for a price this low. Grab it now!
Vega del Castillo 2013 Galimatias Cabernet Sauvignon Roble ($11) 88 Medium dark red. This is a pleasantly flavored, medium weight wine with notes of currants, cherry, and tobacco with fine firm tannins. It sees 4 months in American oak. Easy drinking but not what most would expect from a Cabernet Sauvignon.
Bodegas Príncipe de Viana The Bodegas Prínicipe de Viana is one of three wineries held by the Grupo Príncipe de Viana in Navarra and Rioja. These include Príncipe de Viana and Albret in the Navarra DO. Created in 1983, the Grupo cultivates 700 ha of vineyards and produces 14 million bottles annually. Príncipe de Viana is the largest of the three wineries with 420 ha. of estate vineyards and another 480 ha of vineyards under contract and a total annual production of 10 million bottles, making it Navarra’s largest commercial winery. Since it is also the single largest exporter of Navarra wines, its focus on quality positively influences the international reputation of the DO. Unfortunately, this excellent winery has no US importer.
Principe de Viana 2015 Garnacha Roble Navarra ($12) 90 Showing scents of dark red rose petals, violets, red berries and wood spice, this is an appealing wine. The palate is soft and smooth with good depth of dark red fruit and a nuance of charred oak, finishing with firm tannins.
Camilo Castilla Established in 1856, this is the oldest winery in Navarra with 50 hectares of vines. It specializes in making sweet wines from Muscat and has won worldwide fame for its wines. The winemaker is Idoya Jarauta.
Camilo Castilla NV Capricho d’Goya Vino Dulce Natural ($30) 93
Sourced from 100+ year old Muscat Blanc à Petites Grains vines and aged 3 years in glass demijohns exposed to the elements followed by 4 years in oak casks, the mahogany colored Capricho d’Goya is richly aromatic and honeyed in character with layers of dried fruit with nuances of dates and toasted coffee beans. Sourced from the single vineyard Tambarréia with 100+ year old Muscat Blanc à Petites Grains vines planted on calcareous clay soils.