In the Rolling Hills of DO Navarra!


I recently received a selection of four most enjoyable wines from DO Navarra, by a rather circuitous route!

My great Welsh pal, Geraint (not colloquially known by that name – bet you can guess what he’s actually called!), has a passion for Italian wines, reds in particular. However as a lover of wines in general as well, he’s certainly not averse to trying others.

As a gastronome (actually, he’s a little taller than a Gnome, but it’s close) and first class Rugby Scrum Half, playing for Liverpool, Cheshire and Lancashire, Taff has travelled a lot, and each place he goes, he always likes to sample the food, and the wine. He’s a great cook too.

So, when he Whatsapped me asking about Le Naturel, a Spanish red wine he’d found and really enjoyed in the UK, I knew it would be well worth investigating – and not wholly altruistically, either! The trail ended at Bodegas Aroa, in the rolling hills of DO Navarra, an area of production about which I have written recently, one that is now attracting the attention it deserves.

Le Naturel has a sister, Le Naturel Blanco, made from Garnacha Blanca grown at altitude. Being honest, it was quite a shock – the initial piercing acidity had a chef’s knife-like quality, so sharp was it, almost bringing tears to my eyes! If perhaps thinking steely dry Chablis, triple it and think again!

Le Naturel Blanco, for me, is not an aperitif white wine, but I doubt it was made to be so. That evening we had a fish pie with a rich, creamy, anchovy and baby eel sauce, it cut through the sauce with consummate ease complementing the dish perfectly. I saved some for the next day’s rich, mixed seafood and rabbit paella, and although dressed with lemon wedges, we didn’t need them – the wine balanced the opulence of the dish, nicely.

Le Naturel red, is in fact two wines – there’s one which is 100% Garnacha, the other Garnacha yes, but with the addition of ‘other varieties’. I was sent the latter, and greatly enjoyed it as a wine to enjoy with friends and family as well as with meat dishes – I’d also love it with duck. Don’t tell our French friends but this would be so good in Dordogne!

Taff wanted me to give him my opinion – here’s how I described the wine: Rich, dark red in colour with leafy brambly notes on the nose on first pouring, developing into blackberry fruit aided and abetted by blueberry notes and a brief reference to mountain herbs. Smooth and quite opulent on the palate with a seductive, juicy medium to long finish. I think that says it all, except – when you see it buy it!

There’s also a rosado in this range, which I’d like to try sometime, but there’s a further range from Bodegas Aroa, eponymously named, two of which I was also sent, and also enjoyed.

Aroa Jauna Crianza 2015 is made with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Garnacha and Tempranillo (some of the aforementioned ‘other varieties’ I guess?), and it’s a lovely smooth red wine with balanced tannin retaining some freshness and drinking perfectly – a red wine for food as well as just on its own. Like the whole Aroa portfolio the vines are grown organically, perhaps accounting for the brightness along with the altitude of the vineyards.

Dark red fruits, blackcurrant and blackberry, with a little menthol on the nose too. Its 12 months in oak has added depth to the wine and a little complexity, with some faint dark chocolate notes and a slight nod at liquorice in there too. Drink now and for maybe 6 months.

Aroa Mutiko is another low intervention wine from this bodega which is making modern style wines which also pay their respects to the history of Navarra and the traditions of the winemaking scene. This is made with 100% Garnacha, so it’s a little lighter in colour, and the 10 months of oak ageing makes a slightly lesser impact than the Jauna above.

I was very interested to read the writing on the cork: This wine contains – 1,425 hours of sunshine; 62 days of rain and snow; 11 nights of full moon; 365 days of work; 20 centuries of tradition; and 1 kilo of healthy grapes! Cool – I love it! Info like this gives the consumer a real link to the vineyard that provided the grapes, its climate conditions, the work involved in making the wine and the winemaking history of Navarra. Bravo.

Furthermore, this wine was my equal favourite in a strong group, equal with Taff’s Le Naturel. It’s elegant and subtle drinking brilliantly right now and with some time left too. Great, inexpensive wine!

Bodegas Aroa is part of the Vintae Group about which I wrote when they launched their new business quite a few years ago now, in Barcelona at the Alimentaria Food and Wine Fair, when it was in its heyday. I was impressed then, and I’m very interested to see that they have developed and expanded so well! Bravo, de Nuevo!

Facebook Colin Harkness  Twitter @colinonwine

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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)

Wine Pairing Dinner @ Restaurante Ca Pepe, Moraira, Costa Blanca

Thank you Colin. It was indeed a fantastic evening, which we would like to repeat ASAP! Neil Corke

The team also were very welcoming and pleasant, which made the excellent food taste all the better. We always enjoy Colin’s commentary xxx. Lovely ambiance in Ca Pepe, as well! Carol Corke

 Had a great night excellent food wine and service looking forward to the next one! Mike Prince

What a lovely night, enjoying with delicious food and wine pairing in capepe with a lovely couple sharing with us,its being a fantastic evening 🥂🍾❤

Wine Pairing Dinner @ Restaurante Ca Pepe, Moraira, Costa Blanca

What a fantastic first tasting menu and wine pairing for us last night. We had a really lovely evening, it was a great atmosphere and the food and wine flowed. A special thanks to our guest speaker and wine expert Colin Harkness for his wonderful commentary and a big shout out to our A team who were so organized, efficient and ensured everything ran smoothly, Daniel, Harry, Dan, Anas, Kim & Gaynor