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To search for the beginning of this project we need to go back to 1989, when Antonio Sanz fulfilled his dream of making his own wines in Navarre, after an entire life dedicated to the world of wine. However, he soon realised that, apart from the work in the winery, it was essential to look after the vines to produce and create wines with their own style. This work philosophy was instilled by Antonio in his three sons, Iñaki, Xabier, and Mikel, since they were children. With this new concept, the project Viñas Zorzal was born in 2007, in the family winery of Corella. The project was created with a more modern image and, above all, recovering local varieties from Navarre to produce single-variety wines that were very nice, and that reinterpreted the personality of the variety and the terroir where they come from.
Their first success arrived with the international recognition achieved with their spectacular and exquisite Graciano, which was praised and recommended by several Masters of Wine, like Jancis Robinson. Later on, they decided to do the same with their Garnacha Vieja de Fitero. In view of their success, they decided to create ‘grandes vinos de finca’.
History of the winery
The winery is located in the village of Corella, in the southern part of the Autonomous Community of Navarre, within the geographic region of Ribera de Navarra. It borders, to the north, with the municipality of Alfaro, in the autonomous community of La Rioja, and with Castejón; to the east, with Tudela; to the south, with Cintruénigo and Fitero; and to the west, also with the municipality of Alfaro. The winemaking development of Viña Zorzal has focused on the exploitation of old Grenache vineyards in the area of Fitero. Here is where the first hills of the Iberian System mountain range can be found, a gentle relief compared with the characteristic plain of the Ebro valley, in this southern area of Navarre. This provides the wines more freshness than is expected in the subarea of Ribera Baja. They currently have 40 hectares of their own vineyards, 25 of them planted with Grenache in vase-shape; the rest is planted with Graciano and Tempranillo with some White Grenache and Chardonnay. The production is carried out in the old family winery of Corella, with the advise of the oenologist from Aragón, Jorge Navascués, a renowned expert in the vinification of Grenache.
After their success with the Graciano, their next step was to work with a variety from Navarre: the Grenache. On the one hand, they wanted to produce a rosé like the ones that were made before. Authentic, without frills. A traditional wine. On the other hand, they were eager to made wines with Grenache with the complexity provided by the old vineyards. Their colleague and friend, Rafael Reverte, showed them the treasure they had quite close to the winery: very old, abandoned vineyards in the municipality of Fitero, where the Ebro valley ends and the Iberian System begins. This is how Viña Zorzal’s project was born, focused on the terroir, with single-plot wines (vinos de parcela) that show the features of this special area. The 2013 vintage was the first one for this project with its first two wines: Viña Zorzal Malayeto and Viña Zorzal Corral de los Altos. In 2014, they celebrated their 25th anniversary, which meant a revolution in the packaging of their wines, reflection, and a moment to analyse which could be the maximum expression of their vineyards, and to reflect it in what would be their best wine: Viña Zorzal Señora de las Alturas.
Recently, in 2016, in an effort to recover the founding brands of Antonio Sanz, his three sons gave another twist to the viticultural project by making Reynoble, in honour of Charles III, King of Navarre from 1387 to 1425. This king stood out for his great heart and kindness, which is why he was given the name ‘Rey Noble’. He was a true king, for his blood and for helping with the improvement of the world where he lived.
There is no doubt that their best and greatest assets are the vineyards. Especially the one in Fitero, located at almost 500 metres above sea level. In this area, the Mediterranean influence of the Ebro valley disappears, giving way to a more continental climate, very hot summers, very cold winters, and great temperature changes between day and night. The annual average temperature ranges between 13ºC and 14ºC. Annual rainfall ranges between 400 and 500 mm. The growth cycles of the vines are of the longest ones in D.O. Navarre: Around 227 days. With these dry conditions, the vineyard has to search for water, and since the clays are heterogeneous, they help the roots to search for it in depth. This area offers more quality features. We are right at the geological separation point between the mountain range of Sierra de Cameros and the Ebro basin.
The vineyards are planted on rocky and stony soils with variegated clays (heterogeneous), limestones and conglomerates. Since the clays are not homogeneous, the grounds are more permeable and resistant to erosion than those of the Ebro basin. Since the vineyards are planted in vase-shape on rocky and stony soils, the stone retains the heat during the day and releases it at night. This boosts the ripening of the grapes. The stones also serve as a protective layer that helps retain moisture in the soil during the dry summer months.
The flora found around the vineyard, and which they are actively recovering, is quite curious. From endemic species such as labiated plants that live in chalky soils, to Euphorbia species related to some North African spices. We can also find ironwort, the local flower soplaiplón, and wild opiates, as well as poppies. There are also watercress, bryony, datura stramonium, the Equisetaceae horsetail (a relic from the Carboniferous Period), etc. Maybe, due to the fact that they have these unique characteristics of the area, they can boast about having one of the oldest vineyards in Navarre, a Grenache vineyard that is 115 years and that survived the phylloxera.
Their other vineyard is located next to the winery, in Corella, at 371 metres of altitude. In this area, the Mediterranean influence of the Ebro valley is somewhat higher than in Fitero. Even so, summers are also very hot and winters are very cold, and there are great temperature differences between night and day. The annual average temperature is of 13.3ºC, and annual rainfall is of around 500 mm. The terrain is flat and the vineyards of Tempranillo, Graciano and Grenache are trained in espalier. Historically, Corella is linked to wine also thanks to the features of its soils, the land, since calcareous clay is perfect for these local varieties.
More recently, in 2015, and with more than 5 years working with the vineyards in Labastida and San Vicente de la Sonsierra, they made the wine Viña Zorzal Rioja Tempranillo 2014 in the Rioja Alavesa, at 555 metres of altitude, where they fell in love with the landscapes, vineyards and wines when they were children. Here, the Mediterranean climate clearly receives the influence of the Cantabrian Sea, tempered by the mountains that close it off to the north. The annual average temperature ranges 12.6ºC and 13.2ºC, with an average rainfall of 650 mm. The climate is Mediterranean, of the dry sub-humid type. The soil is one of the quality factors than distinguish this area. The soils is brown limestone, of a yellowish-brown colour, poor, very calcareous, and deep, somewhat gravelly, with a medium to light consistency. The roots of the vines sink deep into the ground to explore larger portions of land and ensure they get the necessary nutrients. They mainly work with the Tempranillo variety, and to a lesser extent, with Grenache.
In all their vineyards they use little intervention and organic viticulture. They do not till the vineyards, all the processes are done manually, they use local plant covers that they have studies previously, and they fertilise using compost, which improves the resistance of the vines to diseases.
At the winery they also continue with minimum intervention. Fermentations are spontaneous, they avoid racking, and they do not filter or clarify. They also avoid the use of additives and they only add very moderate amounts of sulphites.
Wines from Viña Zorzal
Below is the list of wines made by Proyecto Zorzal:
Señora de las Alturas is made with 80% Grenache and 20% Graciano. This wine has aged for 15 month in 225-litre French oak barrels. The Grenache vineyards are around 70 years old, located in the municipality of Fitero, and planted on soils with sediments from the Iberian System and with some calcareous remains. However, the Graciano vineyards located in Corella, which are around 40 years old, are planted on deep, rocky soils with a loamy texture. It goes through the alcoholic fermentation with local yeasts in open 500-litre single-use French oak barrels. The malolactic fermentation takes place in 225-litre second-use French oak barrels. On the nose, it has intense aromas of fresh red fruit, with notes of fig tree leaf and spices on a mineral background. In the mouth, it is amiable, ample and refreshing, with silky tannins and nuances of its ageing in the wood. Very persistent and with a long finish.
Corral de los Altos is a varietal wine made with Grenache, aged for 9 months in 225-litre second-use French oak barrels. The Grenache comes form the northern plot of the site Corral de los Altos, a 43-year-old vineyard located in Fitero on stony soils. It goes through the alcoholic fermentation in 2,000-litre French oak vats with native yeast. The malolactic fermentation takes place in French oak barrels, where it is aged afterwards. On the nose, it is clean, with prevailing aromas of black plums, red fruit and spices. In the mouth, it is fresh and persistent, with a medium body and soft tannins, as well as the presence of red fruit.
Viña Zorzal Garnacha is a varietal wine from vineyards that are over 35 years old located in Fitero, at 520 metres of altitude. The soils are stony and rocky, with variegated clays, limestones and conglomerates. On the nose, it is clean, fine and delicate, with outstanding aromas of red fruit, spices and minerals. In the mouth, it offers a lot of freshness, with flavours of wild red berries on a mineral background.
Viña Zorzal Graciano is a varietal wine from 37-year-old vineyards located on the site of Ombatillo, in the municipality of Corella. It is aged for 9 months on its lees in French oak barrels with medium to high toasting. 25% goes through the malolactic fermentation in new French oak barrels with fine grain, and the remaining 75%, in stainless steel deposits. It is clarified and filtered gently, with no stabilisation. On the nose, it is intense and very clean, with sensational aromas of red fruit and lactic notes on a spicy and mineral background. In the mouth, it is deep and tasty, with red fruit accompanied by spicy and bitter touches. Very good acidity and a long finish that has a very persistent mineral character.
Viña Zorzal “Malayeto” is a varietal wine made with Granache from 35-year-old vineyards located in Fitero, at 520 metres above sea level. They are located on stony and rocky soils with variegated clays, limestones and conglomerates. This wine is aged for 9 months in first- or second-use French oak barrels. It goes through the alcoholic fermentation with local yeasts in 2.000-litre French oak vats. The malolactic fermentation takes place in 225-litre second-use French oak barrels. On the nose, it is clean, with prevailing red fruit, spices and minerals. In the mouth, it is fresh and mineral, with a medium body and soft tannins, as well as the presence of red fruit.
Viña Zorzal Rosado is made with Grenache from a vineyard owned by the winery located in the town of Fitero, in Navarre. It is made with the saignée of the must. On the nose, it is intense and very clean, with prevailing wild red berries, like strawberries, and its floral touches. In the mouth, it is very fresh, balanced between a sparkling acidity and a soft and somewhat bitter mid-palate. It has a long finish, with an aftertaste full of persistence and warmth.
Viña Zorzal Garnacha Blanca is made from their own vineyards located in Fitero, Navarre, at 495 metres of altitude. They are located on stony and rocky soils with variegated clays and conglomerates. This wine is aged for 4 months on its lees in stainless steel deposits. Rating: On the nose, it is clean and with a medium intensity. The aromas of lemon and pineapple stand out on a sweet background. In the mouth, it is ample and fresh, with flavours of white fruit and a mineral background. A long and very refreshing finish.
Viña Zorzal Chardonnay is a varietal wine from their vineyard located in the municipality of Fitero. It has a clean aroma, with a medium intensity, aromas of lemon, pineapple, and soft notes of honey. In the mouth, it is dry and fresh, voluminous, with white fruit. Mineral, with a long and refreshing finish.
Viña Zorzal Tempranillo is a varietal wine from Fitero. The yields of all the vines that have taken part in this wine are all below 4,000 kg/ha. It goes through a cold pre-fermentation maceration and a fermentation with a soft extraction, using only native yeasts. On the nose, it is clean, with a high intensity of aromas of red fruit, spices and earthy notes. In the mouth, it is dry and fresh, with soft tannins and a medium body. Flavours of red fruit, mineral and with a long finish.
Viña Zorzal Tempranillo DOCa Rioja is made with 95% Tempranillo and 5% Grenache from the vineyards located between La Bastida and San Vicente de la Sonsierra, which are around 40 years old. The fermentation is spontaneous. 50% goes through the malolactic fermentation in French oak barrels of fine grain, and the rest in concrete deposits. Then, the wine was aged for 5 months in 225-litre barrels and 2,000 litre vats made of French oak. Clean aroma, high intensity, aromas of red fruit, spices and earthy notes. In the mouth, it is dry and fresh, with soft tannins and a medium body. Flavours of red fruit, mineral and with a long finish.
Reynoble Garnacha is a modern wine, with a fruity profile and very fresh. It is made with local grapes like Grenache (90%) and Tempranillo (10%). The grapes ferment with local yeasts in stainless steel deposits. Then, they are aged for 5 months in used French oak barrels, plus another 4 months in the bottle before the wine is marketed. It is a casual wine, quite light —what we would call airy— that fills the mouth with its fresh notes and nuances of lollipop, strawberries, raspberries... A round wine, very youthful and extremely easy to drink.
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