Structured, spicy/herbal reds
These highly structured reds with big personalities often have the right stuff for long cellar-aging (i.e., quality plus high natural tannins and acidity), though our guess is that most bottles from this small but growing category do not lie unopened for very long. A handful of Navarra pioneers in the 1970s and 1980s made a bet that certain varieties that did very well across the Pyrenees in France—Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon—would also do well a few hundred kilometers south. Their guess proved to be an essay in terroir-varietal suitability that would eventually impress even the most skeptical of varietal purists. These are firm-backbone wines, typically blends anchored by one or both Bordeaux varieties but occasionally single-variety bottlings as well, with 100% Merlot wines showing particular distinction as the region matures. Though it comprises a small percentage of plantings, Syrah, too, is beginning to show great promise in Navarra’s vineyards and blends. Overall, these wines exhibit assertive spice and either savory, Old World-style heft or lush, New World-style extraction. They are mostly dark-fruit dominated and tend to show abundant black pepper and baking spice aromatics, which are very often also endowed with a pronounced smoky herbaceousness.