Viña Zorzal en Marlborough Express

Deborah Walton en Marlborough Express

Wine with a good nose for history

It has been a while since we’ve reviewed Spanish garnacha (grenache as it’s known here), so when I bought a bottle of Zorzal, it seemed a good idea to share the tasting experience.

Besides, it appeared to be a good choice at the price.

The last grenache to appear on these pages was a Villa Maria Cellar Selection Gimblett Gravels and it was seriously good – lush, full-bodied with plenty of plum, pepper and spice flavours.

Grenache is rare in New Zealand yet it’s one of the world’s most extensively planted grape varieties. It does very well in the hot, dry vineyards of Spain, southern France and, more recently, in Australia.

With all this in mind, we expected the Zorzal garnacha from Navarra, Spain, to be good. Navarra is both an autonomous region in northern Spain and a specifically limited wine zone.

Today it is considered one of Spain’s most exciting quality wine regions and lies between Rioja and the French border to the northeast. The location, between the illustrious wine producing regions of Rioja and France’s Bordeaux, means it draws expertise and inspiration from both regions.

Grapes have been grown in Navarra since ancient Roman times and today the region is famous for some of Spain’s classic varieties – namely tempranillo and garnacha. Both varieties are natives of Spain.

Navarra is also home to some of France’s classic varietals including cabernet sauvignon, merlot, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc, yet unsurprisingly it is the indigenous varietals that are most prevalent, making up 70 per cent of the total vineyard area. About 95 per cent of that area is dedicated to red and rose production with white wines making up the remaining 5 per cent.

Grenache has traditionally been used to make Navarra’s most internationally popular wine – rose, along with very ripe, full-bodied red wines. Today, grenache is no longer the most widely planted grape in Navarra, representing only 25 per cent of plantings in the region.

Much of it is still used to make those fresh, fruity roses, but in its smaller quantities it has also achieved new status as a component of handcrafted, high quality red wines.

As is the case with that Villa Maria Grenache from Hawke’s Bay, Spanish wines made from grenache tend to be very lush and fruity, with highly aromatic notes of blackberry and currants.

As we weren’t familiar with Zorzal, we have borrowed from the company’s website to fill in a few gaps.

Zorzal first appeared in 1989 when Antonio Sanz, the name behind the label, started making his own wines with the hope his winery would be among the best in Navarra.

As is the case anywhere in the world, to achieve his goal he found himself working in the winery and in the vineyards. He says that to begin with neither he nor his brothers liked this idea because, when they were younger, they had to work in the vineyards during summer. They would rather have been working in the fresh, cool and comfortable winery but knew the best wines get their start in the vineyard.

This philosophy has been handed down to Antonio’s sons and has led to the creation of a new project known as Vina Zorzal.

«We rescued Navarre native grapes such as garnacha, graciano, and tempranillo,» he says. «From them, we want to make wines that are valued for their authenticity and simplicity. Our graciano has been recognised by Jancis Robinson, by the jury of the IWC, by D O Navarra.

«Our next step now is working with the most characteristic grape of Navarra: garnacha. On the one hand we wanted to make a garnacha rose as they used to be years ago in Navarra, authentic. On the other hand, we were keen on making a red garnacha with the complexity provided by old vines.»

A colleague and friend, Rafa, has helped the Sanz family’s dream become a reality by showing them a secret – the very old garnacha vines grown in the district of Fitero, a village near Corella.

«We are also lucky to start with these for our 2010 vintage, because this one was just amazing.»

It’s hard not to get wrapped up in the enthusiasm and emotion displayed here so, without further ado, here’s to the wine, which we rate well.

Zorzal Grenache 2012 Navarra, Spain ($15)

Opaque purple red in the glass. The aroma is an inviting, lightly perfumed blend of red currant and dark plum, spicy, with some chocolate notes.

The palate is soft, simple yet appealing with red currant, plum and black pepper notes sitting nicely against some gentle oak, earthiness and soft spice. A medium-bodied wine that starts and finishes powerfully but lacks a little in mid-palate depth. The velvety texture makes up for this in spades. Finishes well – there’s plenty of ripe fruitiness that lingers nicely.

Very good buying at the price and available at Wino’s, in Blenheim.