Wine on Starchefs




star Vintners  

Bodegas Julian Chivite
By Jim Clarke

Bodegas Julián Chivite is the oldest winery in the Navarre DO of Spain, and has consistently ranked as one of the finest as well. Dating back to 1647, they rose to prominence in the export market during the late 19th century. Claudio Chivite Rández, great-grandfather of the current generation of Chivites, took advantage of the oidium and phylloxera crises in southwest France to build a market there for his own wines and gained a foothold strong enough to last through Navarre’s own phylloxera attack and into the 20th century. His grandson, Julián Chivite Marco – after whom the bodega is now named – guided the winery through the Franco period. During his time he renovated the facilities twice in response to political and technological changes. In 1948 he undertook to repair the damages and neglect brought about by the Spanish Civil War, and in 1988 he updated the winery into a state-of-the-art facility.

In 1981, ready to move forward after the Franco years, Chivite released their Gran Feudo Rosado, a winemaking manifesto. Garnacha-based rosados are traditional to the region, but was a style which had declined into mediocrity; this new wine reaffirmed the style’s potential, as well as Chivite’s devotion to quality. They further expanded their range with a Late Harvest Moscatel, which, unusually for a Spanish wine, included botrytis-affected grapes, and in 1989 they released their Colecion 125 series of wines. The Colecion 125 and Gran Feudo wines are now the twin pillars of their production.

Today the winery is run by Julián Chivite’s four children: Mercedes, Julián, Carlos, and Fernando. One of their priorities has been to expand their vineyards so they would not be dependent on contract winegrowers, giving them more direct control of their primary resource. To that end they acquired the Señoria de Arínzano farm in 1988, which expanded their holdings by about 150 hectares, and in 1999 they added another 160 ha. when they bought Granja de Legardeta nearby. They have also begun producing wine outside of Navarre: in 1998 they bought Viña Salceda, a Rioja producer, and are already marketing their own Rioja under that label, and they recently bought 60 hectares in the Ribera del Duero as well. Renowned Spanish architect Rafael Moneo designed their new winery on the Arínzano property, a project that included the renovation of a variety of historical monuments in and around the property.

Navarrese wines have traditionally been based more around the Garnacha grape rather than Tempranillo, and have traditionally included imported French varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Chardonnay – much more so than in Rioja, their neighbor to the south. At Chivite and many other vineyards in the region Tempranillo is gaining ground. The Gran Feudo line includes a 100% Chardonnay, the aforementioned Rosado, made from 100% Garnacha, and two reds, a Crianza and a Reserva, both made from a blend of Tempranillo, Garnacha, and Cabernet Sauvignon. The dessert wine under this label is the Gran Feudo Dulce, made from Moscatel de Gran Menudo grapes.

The newer line, Colecion 125, has three levels of red wines. The Viñas Viejas uses Tempranillo, Merlot, and Garnacha while the Reserva replaces Garnacha with Cabernet Sauvignon; the Gran Reserva – made only in outstanding vintages – is 100% Tempranillo. There is also a Colecion 125 barrique-aged Chardonnay and the Late Harvest Moscatel dessert wine. Outside of Navarre they have already released a Reserva-level Rioja called Conde de la Salceda, and we can expect to see their Ribera del Duero soon. All their wines show a commitment to artisanal quality, with complexity and elegance that belies Navarre’s old reputation for high-octane, powerhouse wines.


> more starVintners