BODEGAS FERNÁNDEZ DE ARCAYA
DO NAVARRA GOING FULL CIRCLE?
In his book, ‘The New Spain’ revised edition 2004, the late John Radford says that DO Navarra’s wines “ . . represent some of the most exciting and innovative work being conducted in the country . .”.
I agree with him – but when I checked in my wine ‘cellar’ how many Navarra wines did I find – none! Tell me, when was the last time you bought a wine from DO Navarra? I have to admit, I rarely do and judging by what’s offered in friends’ homes and indeed in restaurants on the costas of Spain it seems I’m not alone. It’s a crying shame for Navarra producers who once were as powerful as those of their counterparts in the now far more famous, La Rioja. Well with perhaps a little help from this article and ones to follow, plus the rich wines of Bodegas Fernández de Arcaya I can foresee a change for the better!
Navarra is one of the oldest wine producing regions of Spain. When the Americas were discovered, ships leaving Spain charged with keeping the colonists provisioned, were packed to the gunnels with food and drink. As Navarra already had a fine track record in the export trade (to France, in fact) and in producing fine wine for the pilgrims en route to and from Santiago de Compostela their producers were an obvious choice for the merchants.
Of course the ships returned from the Americas laden with g old, silver, tobacco and other exotic and precious items. The wine producers were paid handsomely, this enabled them to invest in their business and to put in place that which was needed for the future generations to continue in the same vein. This foresight paid dividends as the Royal Courts, Cathedrals and Colleges of Spain located in the area during the following centuries also needed copious amounts of fine (and session!) wine.
Also, in business, clouds can have silver linings and when centuries later the famed French vineyards were hit by the dreadful Phyloxera plague, Navarra was ideally placed to take advantage of the fact that a thirsty France needed supplying with wine!
The good times rolled in Navarra. That is until that nasty pest, Phyloxera, decimated the productive vineyards of Navarra as well, just as it had in most of Europe! The area under vineyard was reduced by over 98% – a staggering blow which left a legacy. Navarra didn’t recover its former glory and as other areas, particularly nearby Rioja, gained in importance it was left slightly by the wayside.
Then the regional government decided to get to grips with the problem. EVENA, the Viticultural and Oenological Research Station was established in Olite – their brief, to investigate just about everything to do with wine in their area – from the soils, the varieties, the climate etc – right up to, and including bottling! Although still wounded, Navarra bounced back.
Clearly one of the reasons is that bodegas continued producing fine wines as they always had done, but they also upped the ante re quality. Bodegas Fernández de Arcaya is just such a bodega. Rustic, with a history in general agriculture as well in vineyards the winery is making traditional and modern/traditional Navarra wines – with one foot in the past, one in the present and an eye to the future.
There’s a small portfolio of wines, just seven in total: a white, a rosado and five reds, most of which, following traditional methods have an element of oak ageing, from roble to reserva in style. But it is the final wine listed on their website (www.fernandezdearcaya.com) that first attracted my attention.
From time to time over the years I’ve written about Kosher wines that are produced in Spain. There are, of course, Jewish communities all over Spain, whose religious dietary requirements must be met. However there are also many Jewish communities throughout the world which, like others, would like to have a wider choice of wines available to them. Kosher wines, wines that are permitted in the Jewish religion – and especially for their various religious festivals, but which are also jolly good wines!
‘Alate Kosher 2011 no mevushal’ from Bodegas Fernández de Arcaya is a 100%, authentic Kosher, Rabbi approved red wine – and a wine of quality, whatever your religion! Made from 100% Tempranillo it has a super deep red colour and an alluring aroma when first uncorked and poured into the decanter or glass.
Like all the Fernandez de Arcaya wines is it rich and fills the mouth with pleasure. Intense aromas of dark cherry, some red and black plum but also a passing note of ripe strawberry and redcurrant. There’s no mention of oak – but the wine feels like it’s had a short time in barrica whilst maintaining its freshness. Lovely wine, recommended!
Perguita Crianza is a died-in-the-maceration-tank traditional Navarra wine. 80% Tempranillo with supporting acts from Cabernet (explaining the darker colour of this wine) and a little Merlot. It’s had 12 monthss in American and French oak, a combination which gives the wine some added aromas and flavours of vanilla, cinnamon, coffee, coconut and a touch of tobacco. It’s a quite intense wine with some complexity and depth. Again rich, and certainly a wine for the dinner table, as well as for simply enjoying!
Selección Privada Reserva 2007 is made with 100% Cabernet it’s brooding power and perhaps harshness of youth have mellowed perfectly now making it an ideal wine for drinking now and for a couple of years yet. Two years in French and American have added the same as in the above, but in a slightly more melloed, understated manner. Blackcurrant, black cherry and damson are on the nose and the palate.
It’s a complex, structured wine with layers of pleasure throughout its depth and a certain feeling of opulence. It’s a personal favourite of the family, and I can see why!
Contact Colin: firstname.lastname@example.org and through his unique website www.colinharknessonwine.com and you can now follow Colin on Twitter @colinonwine for all the up-to-the-minute information about the dynamic Spanish wine world!