There is a saying that the best wines come from the worst soils. Take a look at the stony, limestone-laden vineyards where Viña Zorzal grows its Garnacha grapes in the Navarra region of northern Spain — then taste this outstanding wine — and you’ll understand the truth in that statement.
The grapes for Viña Zorzal’s 2018 “Malayeto” come from 35-year-old vineyards in the mountainous Fitero subregion in the southern part of Navarra, which is known for producing superb Garnacha (the same grape as Grenache in France).
The label was created in 2007 by three brothers — Iñaki, Xabier, and Mikel Sanz — who are third-generation members of a winemaking family. In Navarra, the Garnacha grape has been somewhat overshadowed in recent decades by “international” varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Chardonnay. The brothers’ aim, as they describe it, is to “rescue native Navarran grape varieties that had been almost forgotten about, producing single-varietal wines based on the values of authenticity and simplicity.”
They have done so by rehabilitating abandoned, old-vine Garnacha vineyards that produce wines of intensity and complexity, and farming them organically.
Viña Zorzal’s 2018 “Malayeto” shows just how successful that effort has been. The name refers to the single vineyard where the grapes are grown, and the wine really pops with concentrated old-vine fruit and crisp acidity.
With a few swirls in the glass, it opens up to reveal a vibrant and delicious wine that stands well above many Garnachas. Light in color, it shows spicy red fruit aromas and floral tastes, including raspberries, cherries, and violets. Hints of baking spices, powdered cocoa, and minerals also emerge, all framed by a smooth tannic structure. The $21 wine is aged in previously used French oak barrels, keeping the wood influence subtle.
This is a unique red wine that would pair well with a wide range of foods. If you’re not familiar with the Garnachas of Spain, it’s a memorable introduction.