The Wine Kingdom of Navarra

I was asked the other day at a tasting, about how I view myself in terms of what my experience is with wine and how it affects what I write about it. I paused for just a moment and said, "I'm an explorer.” I can't say I'm a trailblazer by any stretch of the imagination, but I'm definitely open-minded about giving unknown wines and the grapes that produced them a swirl. 

Now some folks, who know me may point out that I am a bit of a skeptic and that is true. That’s especially so of emerging regions like my recent visit to the Virginia Wine Scene. But the explorer inside of me leaned into what they were pouring, gave their wines a good swirl, slurp and guess what I was pleasantly surprised by the overall quality of the wine.  So much so that I'm very optimistic about the direction of the wine scene there and where it's heading, you should be as well. 

That said today's review will center on what could hardly be called a new region, but to say it's an emerging region would not be accurate either. I like to think of Navarra as a reemerging region. Having now been exposed to many of their wines over the past few months, I would have to say that this region is set to start turning heads in the Vino-Sapien world. What I would like to see is a little more visibility; meaning seeing it on wine-store shelves or on restaurant wine lists in the U.S. marketplace. Of the wines I've tasted, I will highlight a few [five to be precise] of my favorites, that I believe would make any wanna-be wino do the happy dance.

As someone that has done his fair share of abusing my liver in the pursuit of "finding great juice for a great price" by drinking, tasting, slurping and in some case spitting various wines over the years I'm really beginning to truly appreciate Spanish wine as a whole and the wines of Navarra in particular. Having visited Spain this summer for the first time, I've developed a real affinity for Spanish culture, even though I only got a quick glimpse. Which is why I'm excited to say I've been picked as one of the Navarra Five, to explore this region first hand. To say I'm excited would and could not fully explain how pumped I'm for this trip back to Spain. 

I was part of a recent online "live" taste event called the "Wines of Navarra" earlier this summer. It was a great tasting and nearly everyone involved really dug the overall quality profile of a majority of the wines in the tasting line-up. I had a few favorites of course and those are the wines I want to highlight for you in today's review. 

 1. 2009 Otazu Chardonnay: First this is the second time, I've had a wine from these folks and wow they impressed me enough both times to write a review. That said, this wine is extremely well made for its small SRP of $14. Crisp refreshing acidity from start to finish,  a nice vein of minerality running through granny-smith apples and bright citrus. Stainless steel fermented for that famous 'naked" fruit taste. This is a great food wine, sure to please a majority of palates.  

 2. The 2010 Señorío de Sarría Old Vine Garnacha: If you love a really good rosé this 100% Garnacha would be a great choice for the long dog days of summer when you're jonesing for a refreshing quaff that taste like a basket of fresh picked ripe strawberries and dried rose petals. This wine has a nice substance to it and would also pair nicely with mochiko chicken and potato salad. It sells for an SRP of $16 and 14% ABV.

3. 2007 Albret French Oak: A blend of Cab, Merlot, and Tempranillo. The name on the bottle made me kind of scratch my head a bit, "French Oak" umm okay. I got past the quirky naming rather quickly as I started to evaluate the wine. I'm a huge fan of blends and this wine is no exception. In the glass, you'll find a boatload of dark cherry, subtle plum notes, vanilla, woodiness and a touch of spice. The balanced acidity keeps the fruit from dominating and the low 13.5% ABV is a pleasant surprise. The finish is complex, but not lengthy. This is a great food wine that would pair with many tapas type dishes.  The best part is the SRP of $8, yep you heard me right, and the QPR is through the roof on this bottle.

4. 2008 Bodega Insurrieta SUR: What you have with this wine is very much the characteristic flavors of a Vino Joven [young wine] but the 6 months in oak casks threw me off the trail. A wonderful blend of Garnacha and Graciano fill your glass where you’ll find real teeth-staining purple and violet hues. An odd faux candied aroma dance around dried sage wood on the nose. After the first splash down, plenty of raspberry and blackberry wrapped around smooth tannins and filtered through some rich earth, tobacco in the background, teasing with a medium length finish. The recommended partner would be barbecue ribs; it should marry with the marinade quite nicely. A very good wine for the small price point SRP $13. The ABV of 15% does give a bit of heat but is quickly minimized with a decanting.

5. 2010 Ochoa Moscatel De Grano Menudo: Oh yeah, now it's time for dessert. If you got a hankering for something sweet or you are looking for the ideal wine to pair with a summer style dessert than you are in luck because this hits every note.  A few musky grape overtones, white peaches, and floral flavors dominate but are not overpowering.  A nice vein of acidity keeps this wine fresh. It's a bit viscous, I believe it would pair nicely with fresh fruit strudel [Hans and Harry's Bakery ]or a bit of fruit salad. But perhaps a bowl fresh cut peaches clinging to some vanilla ice cream would be ideal, I think so. It's selling in the 375ml bottle for an SRP of $20.

The wines from the Kingdom of Navarra represent great values in wine for everyday quaffing and beyond. You'll find a wonderful depth of flavors and many tasty pairing options are to be found in the vino you can find from this unique region. Seek them out, give them a swirl and please let me know what you think. Until next time sip long and prosper, cheers everyone!


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