Notes on Northern Spain ♯2: Every Rosé Has A Thorn

Navarre is Rioja’s next door neighbour. It has a history of making rosés from the Garnacha grape we spoke about last time. Problem for years was that there wasn’t all that much care and attention paid, they were a bit too alcoholic and often too oxidised.

Remember where Rioja is?  Now look a bit to the right...
Remember where Rioja is? Now look a bit to the right…

What do I mean by that? Well, believe it or not, it is possible to have too much alcohol in the wine! I know, I was shocked when I found that out too! But all the components of the wine, the acidity, the body, the flavours, and the alcohol all jumble together in the glass to give you what I suppose you could call the real “taste” of the wine. If one of those is relatively higher than it should be, then it becomes obvious and what people in the wine world call “unbalanced”. With alcohol it gives a burning feeling at the back of the throat, which tends to take away from the enjoyment.

Wines become too oxidized mostly due to lack of care in the production. The wine has plenty of components that will react with oxygen and give rather funky tastes. If you think about what happens when you leave a glass of wine on the table over night, you come back in the morning and what does it smell like? Vinegarish, right? Well that can happen to the wine at any time in its life after (and even during) fermentation. Usually wine makers use techniques like airtight tanks, pumping over nitrogen gas, and sulphur treatments to stop the oxygen attacking the freshness. But those techniques weren’t always available. So in a place like Navarre you had oxidised wines with too much alcohol. Drinkable, but not exactly outstanding.

So what they did was turn and look at Rioja (arguably Spain’s first major red wine global success) and thought “we could do that?!” Tempranillo was the new grape of choice, and Rioja style blends were all the rage. With all the move towards red wine production, general production techniques got better and better, and that spread to all styles of wine from the area. Including the historically average Garnacha based rosè.

Now I’ve got nothing against reds from Navarre, but given they try to copy the Rioja style, then you might as well just drink Rioja. I’m sure someone will tell me that’s bollocks, and I’m more than up for having that opinion changed. But for me, when I think of Navarre, I think the improved rosé, and I love it!

It must have taken a long time to come up with that marketing!
It must have taken a long time to come up with that marketing!

So there we were. 8 lads on my stag do, and the first drinks of the day were ordered in. 7 beers and a rosé. I didn’t care, they were great. Earlier harvesting has meant Garnacha used for rosé keeps its acidity and doesn’t have as much time to develop the sugars. So the freshness is there, and the alcohol is back to manageable levels. So what you get now is fresh, fruity (red fruit), and well balanced wines.

If you like your rosés, you’ve got to give Navarre a go.




Related Posts

%d bloggers like this: