Calchetas is perhaps the most powerful yet most elegant wine made by Bodegas Viña Magaña in the Navarra DO, a wine region located just northeast of Rioja. The 100-hectare (247 acre) estate is located in the southern part of Navarra, just south of the Ebro River. Spanish wine aficionados who consider Navarra strictly a source for bulk wines would do well to reflect on what owner Juan Magaña has accomplished. Thirty years ago, Juan had a vision. After researching the best wines in the world, he decided to grow Bordeaux grapes in Navarra. He bought Merlot cuttings from a nursery that sold to a famous chateaux in St. Emilion and Pomerol, and most notably the hallowed Chateau Pétrus. Starting as a pioneer in Navarra, over the years Juan's bodega has become a reference point for quality in the region. Calchetas is the name of a prominent town that existed here during 1149 AD, known around the province of Castilla for its big protective tower. Among all the vineyards owned by Juan Magaña, this was the first to be planted. With Calchetas, the goal is to make a wine that can improve for at least 20 years. This wine's unique character combines the ripeness typical of a Mediterranean climate with the acidity of an Atlantic climate.
WHAT MAKES THIS WINE UNIQUE? This small production wine is made from estate-owned grapes. The vines were grown from Chateau Petrus cuttings that were smuggled into Spain in the early 1970's. Calchetas drinks like great Bordeaux at a fraction of the price. The vines are tended in a singular location within the southern subzone of the Ebro River. Less than 350 cases are made for the world.
RATING HISTORY: 2010 92IWC; 2008 92IWC; 2007 93+WA; 2006 91IWC ; 2005 95WA; 2004 93WA
GRAPE: 50% Merlot, 35% Cabernet, 15% Malbec. Vines planted in 1970. Tended in limestone soil with river stones at 399 m (1,309 ft) elevation. This is a vegan wine.
PAIRING SUGGESTIONS: This serious, sturdy red wine will pair well with bold-flavored red and white meats, especially when grilled or roasted. Classic preparations of lamb and veal are also good matches.
VINIFICATION AND AGEING: The vinification of Calchetas varies depending on the grape variety and the grape's vineyard parcel. Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot from the Arguedas vineyard macerate and ferment in open topped 225 liter barrels with daily punching down (pigeage). The Castejón vineyard produces Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes, which are fermented and aged in 400-liter barrels with daily pumping over (batonnage). A portion of the Cabernet Franc and all the Syrah is whole-cluster fermented. Malolactic fermentation takes place in barrels. All varieties are aged separately in French oak barrels for 12-14 months. The wine is then blended in three to four rounds and aged for an additional 10 months. The total ageing in oak takes two years.
PRODUCTION: 330 cases (6 pack)
LOCATION, SOIL, CLIMATE: Zone 4, at an elevation of 399 meters (1,309 ft.). The vineyards are just 400 meters from the Rioja border south of Alfaro. Of the five districts in Navarra, Ribera Baja, where Magaña is located, is unique compared to the other districts because of its limestone bedrock and distinct microclimate. The winery is located in the town of Barillas. The Merlot was planted in 1975, utilizing cuttings from Chateau Petrus (Clone 181 Class A). The Cabernet was planted in 1976 and the Tempranillo in 1989. The vines are trained in the Guyot double cordon system. The topsoil of the vineyards is composed of gravel, clay and limestone, with the subsoil mainly gravel. The vineyard topsoil is very rich in minerals and the subsoil provided good drainage, which enables the surface minerals to reach the roots in the subsoil and provide nourishment. The gravel topsoil retains heat, allowing the grapes to ripen at night. The climate is classified in Zone 4, Continental and Mediterranean. In short, it is warm and dry. Magaña's temperatures from April-October average 63.7°F with low levels of rainfall, 8.3 inches per year. The microclimate of the Magaña vineyards imparts a rich character to the wines, which show sweet, polished tannins.
TASTING NOTES: Intensely perfumed black and blue fruit scents are complicated by floral pastilles, smoky minerals and incense. Sweet and seamless in texture, offering intense blueberry and mulberry flavors brightened by hints of allspice and white pepper. Shows very good clarity and lift on the finish, which features supple tannins and resonating mineral and floral qualities.
All photos: Friederike Paetzold