Spanish wines, once thought of by many as ponderous and oxidized, have made great strides in recent years — or perhaps the American palate and Spanish style have met mid-ocean. Somehow, without compromising national identity, Spanish vintners are now producing wines we want to taste at prices to suit every purse. One of the producers often seen on local shelves is Bodegas Julián Chivite.
With vineyards in Navarra and Rioja, Chivite has been producing wines since the 1600s. The Gran Feudo Rosado has been available here for somewhat less time, but already this crisp and refreshing rosé has created many friends in the San Antonio market. Combining the strawberry-inflected grace of a young española with the herb and mineral-inflected gravitas of her duenna, this 100-percent garnacha charmer is drunk year ’round in Spain, according to export director Christopher Helies, and the same could easily happen here.
Moving a step up the price ladder (but still within our reach), we come to Gran Feudo Reserva, a blend of tempranillo with cabernet sauvignon and merlot. (This is not a sell-out according to Helies, as there is a history of French grapes in Navarra.) The 2001 had a very big nose of deep berry followed by tobacco and spice.
More uniquely Spanish in composition is the 2004 Viña Salceda Crianza Rioja from a winery Chivite has operated in that region since 1998. Blended from tempranillo with mazuelo and graciano, the crianza expressed both earth and tobacco, yet was bright and lively.
Viña Salceda’s 2001 Reserva Rioja spent more time in American oak than its non-reserve counterpart, yet there was a distinct family resemblance — again leather and tobacco with added pepper and spice, and again a generous component of lively, black fruit. This wine begins to bump up against Value Vino’s $19-$20 price point, but it’s worth it to taste the two siblings together.
The Chivite family’s dons are the Conde de la Salceda, a wine produced only in the best years primarily from tempranillo, and the J. Chivite Colección 125 Reserva, Navarra with tempranillo, merlot, and cab. They’re well above VV’s price point, but should you be presented the opportunity to taste, don’t decline. The Colección 125 in particular seems to be a best-of-both-worlds wine with exuberant tannins and vanilla and equally vibrant cherry flavors. The contemporary 125 winery (Chivite Señorio de Arízano), designed by famed Spanish architect Rafael Moneo, is itself an old-meets-new facility, inserted as it is into a complex of historic buildings in the worn and dusty foothills of the Pyrenees. It’s somehow very rewarding that the building and the wines produced within seem to speak together. •