Last month we paid a visit to Xabi Sanz in Navarra to catch up on how the 2022 harvest had been and have a first look at how the next vintage of our own label Garnacha is shaping up. As tireless as he is talented, it's not an exaggeration to say Xabi is something of a saviour for quality winemaking in Navarra, having spent the last decade nursing back to health a patchwork of old abandoned plots and inspiring many others to do so in the process.
Arriving straight from an early morning flight to Bilbao and a two our drive across Rioja, we arrive at Xabi's winery in the tiny village of Corella only to be immediately whisked away in a pick-up truck to visit the first of many incredible old vine plots we will explore, with Xabi's awe inspiring and contagious passion evident from start to finish.
As Xabi explains, Navarra's winemaking heritage is long and distinguished, with vines first established here by the Romans in the 1st century AD. However it was in the Middle Ages that Navarra's reputation truly blossomed, with pilgrims passing through on the Camino de Santiago spreading word of the high quality Garnacha wines they encountered.
Fast-forward to the 1970s however, and the craze for international varieties such as Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon led to a decimation of these historic indigenous plantings, with Garnacha - 90% of all vines in Navarra at the start of the 1970s - reduced to just 25% today. Perversely, the remaining Garnacha vineyards have further suffered from a move towards bulk rosé production in recent times, this despite the totemic rise of Rioja as a beacon of high-quality winemaking right next door.
To recover Navarra's rich winemaking heritage then is no small task, but Xabi is driven by a belief that the growing conditions here are as good as any, and with the treasure trove of old vines he has recovered - many over 160 years old - great wines of depth and character are possible, if only what is left is now preserved.
Escaping the baking heat of the afternoon sun we returned to Xabi's winery for a simple lunch of anchovies, tomatoes, cheese and bread before settling in for an incredible tasting of countless wines from tank and bottle, showcasing the profound differences that variations in the soil, altitude, aspect and exposure in the Navarra terroir imparts on the final wine.
Of course of special interest to us was how the next vintage of our very own newly bottled 2021 Garnacha was shaping up, and we were delighted to confirm that this - due to arrive next Spring - is absolutely singing with a beautiful blend of silky raspberry, black pepper and violets, plenty of freshness and texture.
The current 2020 vintage has gone down a storm in the shop and with the festive season around the corner we would love to see it enjoyed at as many dinners, parties and celebrations as possible. As such we are offering a special price for a limited time on a case of 6 - £85 or £14.17 per bottle, down from our usual price of £16. Don't forget we also offer free delivery over £50 anywhere on the UK mainland.