These days Navarra’s stock is up, following some time in the vinous doldrums while nearby glamrock Rioja, stole all the headlines . .



Part of the Masaveu Bodegas Group, Bodegas Pagos de Araiz somehow popped into my e-mail in-tray recently. Intrigued by the wines they were promoting, I contacted them to find out more. A few days later, a very pale rosado and two dark red wines born in Denominación de Origen, Navarra, arrived, with accompanying information!

These days Navarra’s stock is up, following some time in the vinous doldrums while nearby glamrock Rioja, stole all the headlines. Driving from the Costa Blanca to Rioja the easiest route takes you through Navarra, the wine producing area with a history of making wine for king and court centuries ago. You’d be missing out if you simply drove on.

The saviour of modern Navarra wine is their ancient variety, Garnacha, oft mentioned in this column, the more so now that winemakers sensitive to its needs are giving it the attention it deserves. Nowadays, Garnacha is not seen merely as a cash cow, pile it high and sell it cheap variety and consequently it is responsible for some super reds.

However, black grape varieties are not responsible for red wine alone, of course, and the first Pagos de Araiz wine I tasted was their oh-so-pale rosado, quite a contrast in shades to their other rosé wine. Very pale pink wines are de rigeur right now so I’m sure it’s a marketing decision – but that doesn’t matter, it’s a good wine in its own right.

Now, if you like your rosado to be very dry, as I do, then this is for you. There’s a fresh acidity on the palate, following very pale pink rose petal aromas intermingling with soft red fruits. As I write, we are planning a fish and shellfish paella for Easter Sunday’s main meal – I wish I had some of this rosado left, as it would be a perfect match, cutting though the richness of the rice and pairing so well with the prawns and mussels!

We did enjoy it with a fish dish, mixed fish pie in fact, and it was just right – plus I really enjoyed it as an aperitif, even supplanting my usual sherry! Now that says a lot!

There were two reds, only one with Garnacha in the blend, though playing a lesser role, just 20%, in their Roble, moving over for Tempranillo (50%) and Merlot (30%). One of the wines selected to represent Navarra’s best wines of 2020, it fits snugly in that slightly oak aged ‘roble’ category.

Dark in the glass the fruit comes first to the nose, with initially only a passing reference to toasty notes coming from the American oak. The aroma develops as it breathes, there’s eucalyptus and some liquorice with blackberry fruit. On the palate, it’s the fruit that takes over while the wine warms the palate with its 14.5% abv. Then, as you swallow this silky wine gives a slightly robust reminder that this is a wine to enjoy on its own, yes, but also with some light and dark meat dishes. It’s BBQ wine for sure, finishing with a touch of bay leaf  and still that brambly fruit.

The Pagos de Araiz Crianza eschews the traditional Garnacha altogether, preferring instead the Spanish variety, Tempranillo (also traditional to Navarra), surrounded by French grapes, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah – entente cordial, but across the Pyrenees! Call it what you like – it works.

There’s a brooding liquorice and slightly tarry nose when the bottle is first opened, then the oak in which it has been aged for just short of a year, makes its presence felt, adding some toast, coconut and vanilla to the perfume party. As the oxygen impacts the wine in the glass the aromas reassemble, with blackcurrant and some spicy blackberry coming to the fore – and staying there, to be joined by a very slight menthol aroma too.

The separate varieties were harvested individually, and kept apart during fermentation too. Then, again on their own, they were aged in either French or American oak, with the final blending before bottling. There were a few more months left in the cellars before release so that all the component parts could meld together. BBQ, yes, but also steaks, roast beef, roast leg of lamb and wild boar casseroles – yes, this will fit the bill!

NB my next Free Facebook Live Wine Tasting will be Wednesday 29th April, 6pm in Spain, 5pm UK. Care to join me? All you need to do is ‘friend’ me on Facebook and then seek me out at six!

Facebook: Colin Harkness  Twitter @colinonwine (next Wine Show, Sat 2nd May, 12 noon (Spain time)

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