How I learnt to love Atlantic Garnacha


In my formative years of learning about Spanish wines, I had a passion for the wines of the Mediterranean coast and northeast of Spain. Dont get me wrong, I still love them but there are other wines that enchant me as well.

Garnachas and Monastrell..with their heady aromas of deep black fruit, lead pencil and balsamic spice ( more like a fairy spice for me). Day and night, I will sip these wines from my apartment in Madrid and through the window and i would watch the time pass by listening kind of blue by Miles Davis.


Back in those days I had a mentor that i was an adolescent with my wine drinking habits. He always used to tell me that my passage to adulthood wine drinking would occur when i started drinking wines with atlantic influence. Those were the wines of Rioja, Navarra and Bierzo. As we head north, the acidities get more pronounced and the fruit gives less gratification. The Garnachas of the north bring to mind red fruit such as raspberries and strawberries. On the mouth, there are fresh and juicy bringing to mind herbal flavors such as diverse teas. They are wonderful but require a bit more attention because these are more introverted wines.

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Famously known for its annual bull-running festival in Pamplona and its endless fields of white asparagus, red peppers and succulent artichokes, Navarra is also the birthplace to some of the world’s oldest Garnacha vines – offering drinkers some of Spain’s best value reds.

In Navarra, the Garnacha style is quite peppery with fine tannins and sour cherry acidity like. The acidity is the product of the terroir of Navarra: Atlantic climate with a combination of poor mountain soil In Navarra Garnacha has traditionally been used to produce pale wines labelled either rosado or clarete.  But more and more, producers are keeping the Garnachas to make singular reds.

One of this producers is Bodegas Artazuri. Part of the group Artadi in Rioja, Artazuri makes a joven entry level Garnacha. It has a very simple elaboration process in which the grapes are destemmed and cold macerated before fermentation occurs at a controlled temperature.

Some of the best wines I have tasted in Navarra are made by Bodegas Artazuri. Juan Carlos Lopez de Lacalle made his name with his Bodegas Artadi in neighbouring Rioja, then moved across the border to neighbouring Navarra to run Bodegas Artazuri in the village of Santa Cruz focusing on just 100% Garnacha wines.


Garnacha Artazuri. SAQ # 10902841. $15.20

This is a very easy to drink and elegant wine. Lovely nose of coffee, cherry in dark chocolate with  lead pencil shavings. In addition,  crushed peppercorns. On the palate, earthy with a medium to high acidity. It may not be hedonistic like the Garnachas further south but provides a fine intelligent drinking. Also it comes with a very friendly price.  You can pair it with a dish of baked dry cod with tomatoes or a seafood stew. Or if you feel like an Italian mood, fettuccine with shrimps alla diavola. 


I cant tell you which wine drinker you should be, but it should be a mix of a connoisseur and expert. For a fun text regarding different wine drinkers, please consult the text of my colleague Yves Mailloux, what kind of wine drinker are you? ( in french).

Hasta luego!!!


La Grande Degustation de Montreal: Chivite Family Estates

Spain was the theme country of La Grande Degustation de Montreal 2015. This is perhaps the most important wine event in the Quebec wine industry and one of the biggests in Canada.This is a huge salon in which more than 200 wine producers, distillers and brewers gather to present their products to a public of more than 15,000 people

Spanish presence was strong with 75 producer presenting their wines to a crazed public of wine lovers and professionals. All the major wine regions of Spain were represented from Aragon, Ribera del Duero, Priorat and Rioja. In addition, Grenache was the vedette grape of this 2 wine festival. Like you may know, Grenache or Garnacha  is a grape that traces its origin from North east Spain in the province of Aragon. From there, it spread to conquer the world gaining a strong foothold in countries such as Australia.


I started my journey in this labyrinth of a salon by tasting some of the wines of Chivite Family Estates. I used to drink a lot of Chivite back when I was in living in Spain in 2002.

Chivite is the Spanish producer that placed Navarra on the international wine scene. It is one of the oldest of Spain with the original winery founded in the town of Cintruénigo in 1637.Today it is still family-owned and going strong. Don Julian Chivite, who died in 1996, was the spiritual father of the present-day company. Since then, the company has been run by his children, Julian, Carlos, Fernando, and Mercedes, who represent the 10th generation of Chivites. The Chivites are also an important family in Navara because they were founding members of the D.O.

Due to time constraints, I only taste the Chivite wines from the properties in Navarra. Below my tasting notes:

Gran Feudo Edición Rosado

Gran Feudo Edicion Rosado 2014

This rose is made from Grenache, Tempranillo and Merlot. Beautiful red fruit notes. In addition, herbs with some dry spices. Echos of Provence. Medium body. Delicate with raspberry tones. Dry finale. Strictly a food wine. 92\100

Chivite Colección 125 Reserva-sv-gl

Reserva 2010 Chivite Coleccion 125 2010. SAQ Code:  11962918. Not available yet at the SAQ.

The flagship wine of Chivite. This is made from 100% Tempranillo and aged 14 months in new and used french oak. Manual grape selection from grapes coming from Finca Granja de Legardeta.

Exceptional fine nose. Tobacco with cassis and prune fruit. Full body. Silky texture supported by a firm frame of tannins. Blackcurrant flavors on the finale. This wine will age for a decade or more. 97\100

Spanish presence at the Festival Vins de Terrebone 2\4: Otazu, the gentleman of Navarra

Located in the Pamplona Valley and surrounded by the Sierra del Perdón and Sierra de Etxauri, with the Arga River as a natural boundary, Bodega Otazu is the northernmost winery producing red wine in Spain.

The winery goes back to 1840, when the first French style winery was built, outside the urban area. In terms of architecture, its spectacular barrels room stands out, composed of 9 vaults of cement and designed like a cathedral, in this case, like a wine cathedral.

Pago de Otazu belongs to a special category  of Spain’s estate wine classification system: Vinos de Pago. The estate received its status in 2008, becoming the third in Navarra to obtain the title.

The area  experiences very marked diurnal temperature variations, and this promotes the aromatic properties and complexity of their grapes. In addition, Otazu’s soils are composed of alluvial clay as well as rocks and  small pebbles.  Their vineyard size is 284 acres (115ha) and they specialize in just four varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo and Merlot for red wines and Chardonnay for whites. All are grown in small  vineyard plots and each  is named after a woman, with names such as Helena, Irene, Daphne and Venus. Their microclimate, which is the result of its location as well as the orography of the land, shines  for the  abundant rainfall that receives falls in autumn, winter and spring; and plenty of sun that they get during their summers. This also contributes to the aromatic phenolics of their grapes.

At the latest Festival Vins de Terrebone, I had the pleasure of tasting two of their wines with their importer Valmonti. My tasting notes below:

Voir la photo agrandie du produit. Cette photo s'ouvre dans une visionneuse et peut comporter des obstacles à l'accessibilité.

Otazu Premium Cuvée 2011. Price: $19.85. SAQ Code:  11387298.

This is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Tempranillo. It has been aged in oak for 12 months and 14 months in bottle. Aproximate production is close to 150,000 bottles.

On the nose, jammy raspberry notes, green pepper and black peppercorns. On the mouth, the wine is full body  with a fresh acidity with meaty tannins.  Could be excellent with grilled sausages over a coal fire.

Voir la photo agrandie du produit. Cette photo s'ouvre dans une visionneuse et peut comporter des obstacles à l'accessibilité.

Senorio de Otazu Vino de Pago 2008. Price: $31.25. SAQ Code: 12382827

Same blend as the premium cuvee. However, production is around 18,000 bottles. In addition, aged in barrique for 16 months and a further aging in bottle for 36 months.This would explain why the wine is so accesible now.

On the nose, the wine nose presented a more spicier bouquet reminding me of nutmeg, clove. With some time, in the glass, notes of blueberry jam appeared. On the mouth, the wine was very earthy with a supple balance. Lots of balsamic flavors here and very round tannins. Long with an excellent balance. This wine would be marvelous with oven rack of lamb. Drink it now or within the next 5-7 years.

Spanish presence at the Trialto Tasting


Trialto, one of the leading agencies in the Canadian wine importing business, hosted on June 9th, their second annual tasting. I was in the company of other members of the Quebec wine press. The wine tasting was an intimate gathering and was followed by a fine selection of cured meats and fine cheeses. The Spanish wine presence was quite high, about 30% of the wines tasted. From 17 wines presented, five were from Spain. Most of the wines are available all year round in the Quebec market, with two exceptions that I will mention below.

Voir la photo agrandie du produit. Cette photo s'ouvre dans une visionneuse et peut comporter des obstacles à l'accessibilité.

Navarra-Garnacha, Bodega Artazu 2013. SAQ Code: 10902841. Price: $15.45

On the nose, aromas that bring to mind different layers of black fruit. In addition, black pepper with paprika nuances. In the mouth, full body, fruity in the mid palate. Dusty tannins with a medium lenght finish. 87\100

Voir la photo agrandie du produit. Cette photo s'ouvre dans une visionneuse et peut comporter des obstacles à l'accessibilité.

Catalunya-Montsant Mas Collet, Celler de Capcanes. 2012. SAQ Code: 642538. Price: $17.55

On the nose, aromas of redcurrants with dark plums and roasted herbs. In the mouth, full body with confit red berries flavors . Great tannins expression. 90\100

Rioja-Izadi Reserva 2010. SAQ Code:  12604098 ( Lot Specialty to arrive in August )

On the nose, noble oak notes with distinctive nots of crayons. In addition, cofee with ripe dark fruits. In the mouth, full body with coconut and cocoa flavors. Brambly tannins. Difficult to approach nose because of its youth. 90\100

Voir la photo agrandie du produit. Cette photo s'ouvre dans une visionneuse et peut comporter des obstacles à l'accessibilité.

Ribera del Duero-Pruno Finca Villacreces 2013. SAQ Code: 11881940. $22.45

On the nose, lots of red ripe red fruits with smoke and barnyards. Less oak than previous vintages. In the mouth, lovely flavors of leafy blackcurrants. Big but quite polished tannins. 92/100

Voir la photo agrandie du produit. Cette photo s'ouvre dans une visionneuse et peut comporter des obstacles à l'accessibilité.

Castilla-leon. Rueda Basa. Telmo Rodriguez 2014. SAQ Code: 10264018. Price: $16.45

On the nose, lots of green and tropical fruit character. In the mouth, medium body. Fresh and a bit sparkling. Lovely citrusy fruit character. 89/100


The tasting was more special, because during lunch, we were lucky to have the presence of Juan Palomar from Grupo Artevino. Mr. Palomar is the export area manager for Artevino in the North Aamerican market. This is a group of wine companies led by the Anton family. They include Izadi ( Rioja), Finca Villacreces ( D.O Ribera del Duero), Vetus ( D.O Toro and Rueda) and Orben ( Rioja).

I had a nice dialogue with Juan regarding the style of Izadi in Rioja and Villacreces in Ribera del Duero. Regarding Izadi, it is a very special since it marries the traditional style of Rioja with the modern one. I also was pleased with the latest vintage of Pruno. There was more fruit character and less oak.

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Hasta Luego