The Spanish wine Renaissance (Navarra, Spain)

More than any country I have been to in Europe, Spain seems to be going through a profound and significant evolution. In the distant past viticulture was pretty widespread across many parts of the country, but due to various reasons (Spanish Inquisitions, revolutions, civil wars, phylloxera) vineyards were left abandoned until the 1960s. Since the 1970s with the global increase in demand for premium wines, often in new markets like North America, Asia and Eastern Europe, a lot of investment has gone into establishing and re-establishing viticultural areas across the country. There are many large companies spearheading this, such as the Torres family, but there are also a number of smaller producers that are developing in new areas after gaining reputations in other areas. One of these producers I had visited the previous day, and I got the chance to visit their estate in the Navarra D.O.

High above the village of Artazu in Navarra

Artadi expanded eastwards into the Navarra region back in 1996, which had a long history of viticulture in the past but had fallen on hard times. As I drove north from Alfaro towards the town of Alfaro I saw very little vineyards, which made a big change from driving in Rioja. Back in the day this part of Spain was covered in garnacha, much like the south of France and other areas of north-eastern Spain. In the recent recovery of the region, volume and market determinants have taken precedence over quality, and as such a range of other varieties that may yield more fruit have been planted. When Artadi set up shop they wanted to work almost exclusively with garnacha, against the grain of the rest of the region. The purchased some vineyards and established relationships with growers of others, and built a winery smaller but almost exactly like the Laguardia facility. Click here to read my post on the Artadi estate in Rioja.

Some friends joined us next to the vineyards

The man in charge of the operations is Eduardo, who had already been clued up by Carlos that I was more interested in seeing vineyards than a winery. Many of the vineyards they source fruit from a very old, and are kept in a very simple natural state. These old vineyards on tougher soils provide the fruit destined for the top wine of the village, the Santa Cruz de Artazu. The younger vines go into the garnacha red and garnacha rose. This part of Navarra has a more extreme climate that Rioja, with cooler night-time and warmer daytime temperatures and less rain. The difference in elevation between the vineyards next to the river and under the chapel on the hill is about 200 metres, so there are plenty of options for future development, including white wines. The Artazuri wines are in a similar mould to those of the Artadi wines, the obvious difference being that these are garnacha based whereas the Rioja wines are tempranillo based. Click here to read my notes on the tasting.

Calcareous soils in Artazu

Click here to see more photos from my morning in Artazu (Navarra), Spain.

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