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Part 10 of the Spanish Series – Navarra and the wines of Vina Magana

magana gateThe Denominacion de Origen (D.O.) region of Navarra shares some aspects with the other great winemaking regions of Spain.  It traces its roots back to Roman times, and can point to centuries where the cloistered monks working in the many monasteries throughout the region maintained and improved the culture of making wine.  In modern times the area is a IMG263_Magana30home for new varietals (at least non-traditional ones for Spain) and for new wines.  There is a great climatic variety here, as the wine region extends for 100 kilometers from north to south, from just south of Pamplona to the Ebro River and the border with Rioja.  There are multiple micro-climates and soil types.  To many, this area is home to inexpensive, bulk wines.  As you’ll see by the end of this article, we would disagree with that assessment.  That is because we were fortunate enough to try some of the wines from Bodegas Viña Magaña.

Juan Magaña founded his winery in Barillas in 1970, began making wine in 1976, and today shares winemaking responsibilities with his son, Diego. The Magaña family owns 120 hectares of vineyard land in the limestone plateau south of the Ebro River in Navarra.

Thirty years ago, Juan had a vision. After researching the best wines in the world, he decided to grow Bordeaux grapes in Navarra. Hemap bought Merlot cuttings from a nursery that sold to a famous chateaux in St. Emilion and Pomerol, and most notably the hallowed Chateau Pétrus. Starting as a pioneer in Navarra, over the years Juan’s bodega has become a reference point for quality in the region. One of the secrets to Magaña’s excellence can be found in the unique qualities of its place of origin. The vineyards are special. The limestone soil in the southern district of Navarra imparts distinct characters of minerality and acidity. Of all the grape varieties grown on the estate, Merlot is best able to capture the minerality of the soil.  These wines age slowly and gracefully.

We have two of  Juan and Diego Magaña’s wines to review.  Here they are:

2011 Viña Magaña Merlot – this wine is not made every year, and only when the grapes are outstanding.  The vineyards here are from Chateau Petrus Merlot cuttings, and grow in limestone soil.  Located in a unique micro-climate, the vines IMG_2428support Bordeaux varietals while maintaining good acidity.  It is 100% Merlot, from now 40 year old vines.  The wine is aged in two year old, French oak barrels for fourteen months.  This is not your everyday Merlot.  Our impressions:

This is a dark, ruby red color out of the bottle, with a touch of maroon creeping in.  The nose is rich, and full of berry fruit.  Wood notes are also there, along with a hint of menthol, various herbs and a distinct oregano aroma.  On the palate the wine is rich, full bodied with nice acid and balance.  The tannins are firm but smooth.  At the back end there are some wonderful, clean cherry flavors that take over.  We let this sit in the bottle with a vacuvin stopper for a day or two, and it developed more smoky characteristics, with the wood coming out and a burnt toast quality.  All good by the way.  One night we paired this with a mustard rubbed, breaded pork loin which worked very well.  We love this wine.  It is world class.  Recommended retail of $63, and it lives up to that price tag.

1997 Viña Magaña Reserva – first of all, the vintage date is correct.  This is from the 1997 vintage.  So here we have a twenty year old wine.  It is a blend of 50% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Tempranillo and 5% Syrah.  The vineyards were planted in 1970.  IMG_2429After fermentation the wine is blended, aged in French oak for 24 months, and then aged another fourteen years minimum in the bottle at the winery, safely tucked into the aging cellars.  It is sort of like the Navarran version of Vega Sicilia’s Unico, from the Ribera del Duero.  This is an amazing sequence of events in a wine brought recently to market.  You can’t find this type of wine making very many places, and very few outside of Spain.  Our thoughts:

The color is a rich, cherry red.  There is a little bricking at the rim, but this doesn’t look anywhere near its age.  Predominantly I would still describe it as a vibrant red.  The nose is so complex, with ripe fruit, tobacco, orange peel, candied cherries, oak and spice. I could probably add a few more in there as well.  It is full bodied, and still fresh with firm tannins.  The finish is very, very long.  For me this was a bit of a Wow! wine.  If you like aged wines, and big reds with lots of complexity, then this is the wine for you.  It’s always a privilege when you get to try something this good with 20 years of bottle age on it.  Recommended retail of $79, which is really inexpensive considering what we are talking about here.  This is a classy, 20 year old wine.  Yum.  Value List wine for sure.

Viña Magaña makes unique, world class wines.  The twenty year old Reserva is just a privilege to try.  We are looking forward to seeing what else Juan and Diego have to offer.

You can read more about the winery at http://www.vinamagana.com/, although it will help if you read a bit of Spanish.

This is another wine from our friends at Ole Imports, and you can read more about Viña Magaña, as well as the rest of their portfolio, at http://www.oleimports.com/.

To read the previous article in the Spanish Series articles click here.

On we go.

A votre santé!

 

 

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