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Spain - A spotlight on Navarra & Rioja Regions

A unique blend of tradition and innovation

The increased world interest in new wave Spanish wines has also benefitted the mainstream Spanish wine industry. Even with the increased attention and international exposure many of these new regions and producers have enjoyed, it is the traditional winemaking and classic approach of regions like the Navarra and the famed Rioja that have led Spain’s rejuvenation over the past two decades.

The Rioja region is simplicity itself, a tranquil and picturesque mélange of sleepy towns, friendly wineries and an accurate look into Spanish country life in the 21st Century.

Historically, the Rioja was the country’s first demarcated wine area way back in 1926. It is relatively small, extending nearly a hundred miles along both sides of the Ebro River in north central Spain. It is narrow, no more than 40 miles wide and bounded by mountains on both sides. Its name is derived by combining Rio (river) and Oja, the name of a tributary of the Ebro near its southwestern boundary.

The region has long been the foundation for top Spanish wines, and, in particular, its wide assortment of excellent priced reds. Due to the classic Spanish tradition of insuring its wines have proper ageing time under its wine laws, most Rioja made offerings are conveniently ready to drink upon release.

The Rioja is also historically significant, as are many European vineyard areas. Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Moors and finally Crusaders were part of the country’s early influences. The Romans had the greatest influence on wine history, when they brought that part of their culture to share with the Spaniards. Some of the ancient sites of Roman wineries still exist today in and around the Rioja and other parts of Spain.

Specifically, Benedictine monks of Cluny in Burgundy established three monasteries within the Rioja area that helped propel the region to the highest echelons of wine production.

The French played other important roles in Spain’s evolution, mainly due to problems existing within their home country. In 1852, and, again in the 1870’s, French growers sought relief from oidium and phylloxera outbreaks and provided great influence over Spanish vineyards and bodegas of the era. This inspiration has remained until the present owing to the region’s closeness to Bordeaux in the southwest of France. As recently as the mid-20th Century, many Rioja reds were compared to a number of Bordeaux chateaux due to this authorative ongoing influence.

Today’s Rioja wines are enjoying the renewed interest in Spain’s wine industry, but have remained much they were for the past hundred years. They are generally well made, classically conceived examples of quality wines at reasonable prices. The Rioja’s exports to the United States have risen dramatically over 50% during the past decade. That figure is expected to rise as more Americans are made aware of Spain’s wide assortment of wines.

  1. Gran Fuedo
    2005 Proprietary Red Blend
    Gran Fuedo
    Chivite, Spain


    Exclusive Import
    id: 971
  2. Vina Salceda
    2006 Tempranillo
    Vina Salceda
    Reserva Rioja, Spain


    New Wave Wine Award
    id: 970
  3. Chivite
    2007 Chardonnay
    Coleccion 125, Spain


    98 - Prosensa Guide
    id: 969

Fernando Chivite

For some unexplained reason, the winemakers in a number of European countries (including Spain) do not receive the exposure given to their professional cohorts in other parts of the world. In California, it is often the reputation of the winemaker that propels the sale of wines, particularly in the competitive off-premise (retail) market. Most American winemakers go to selective viticultural universities and have long resumes that attract the attention of smaller, upcoming wineries. In Europe, more often than not, winemaking is taught as part of a family progression. Winemaking techniques are passed from father to son, assuring complete security of the family’s winemaking secrets and avoiding incursion from outside forces. Many European wineries have multi- generation winemaking family trees, built on the supposition that, ‘if it isn’t broke, then don’t bother to fix it.’ Our featured winery, Bodegas Chivite, is currently in its eleventh generation of winemaking. The present winemaker is Fernando Chivite who learned his art from his father Julien Chivite, who in turn practiced at the side of his father Felix Chivite. Throughout these many decades, much winemaking technique has been passed down through this esteemed family and will doubtless be disseminated to succeeding generations as the company continues to produce its superior wines. It can be said that today’s wines are much the same as the earlier Bodegas Chivite products that have been so successful. The fact that Chivite’s winemaking chain has remained intact for so long supports that assumption.

The history of Bodegas Chivite

This month’s International Series spotlight winery, Bodegas Chivite, is almost too extensive to believe. The winery was founded during the early 17th Century and has existed in an uninterrupted fashion for the next four centuries. In retrospect, the United States has only been a country for less than 300 years. It is easy to realize the incredible historical significance of Bodegas Chivite.

The winery is located in the Navarra Region, just north of the famed Rioja Region, and shares a common border with south central France. Bodegas Chivite is Spain’s oldest winery and, quite possibly, the oldest surviving winery in the entire world.
More importantly, the Chivite family has operated the Bodegas Chivite for eleven generations, a remarkable feat in itself. During the 1860’s Claudio Chivite Randez took advantage of a French oidium outbreak and began exporting wines to fill the vacuum in the French wine industry.

In the 20th Century, family patriarch Julian Chivite Marco had the foresight to make major renovations to the bodegas, thereby increasing its output and also producing higher quality wines that were exported internationally. His efforts were remarkably successful and earned him many significant awards. After his death, Chivite Marco was honored with Spain’s highest honor, the Cruz de Carlos III el Noble.

Toward the end of the 20th Century, the family began acquiring properties in other top producing Spanish wine regions. These included the famed Vina Salceda winery and vineyards in the Rioja Alavesa (a sub region of the Rioja) and the equally celebrated Propiedad de Arinzano estate in northern Spain. The Propiedad de Arinzano is one of but nine Spanish estates to enjoy Pago Denomination, the highest degree of quality and history that Spain awards to its distinctive properties.

The Chivite Family currently owns almost 1500 acres of vineyards and has another 1000 acres under long term contract. Their wines are sold in more than 60 countries around the world and are considered one of the staples of the Spanish wine industry.
Wines of Bodegas Chivite have won prestigious international awards for many years and have increased the winery’s reputation in the world’s most difficult competitions.

The present day owners of Bodegas Chivite have taken a serious approach to utilizing the new wave direction that Spain has enjoyed over the past decade. After modernizing the main winery in 1998 with state-of-the-art equipment and modern technology, Bodegas Chivite has embarked on a course of vineyard designated, estate-produced wines that has drawn legions of new admirers and loyal customers. Its portfolio includes wines for just about every occasion and setting. These include, Gran Feudo, located in Navarra, made from vines at least 20 years old and utilizing Spain’s greatest grape duo, tempranillo and granacha.
Collection 125 salutes the Family’s long term status among Spain’s elite wineries. Its releases are all estate wines grown from the family’s own vineyards. Vina Salceda is also estate driven, and truly high quality Rioja wines that have garnered many awards.
As mentioned above, the Propiedad de Arinzano, also from Navarra, is in an exalted position due to its Pago status.
Finally, the Baluarte brand is the family entry into the new wave category, featuring grapes and wines from Rueda and Ribera del Duero Regions.

Bodegas Chivite is well positioned to bring additional accolades to this marvelous seemingly never-ending piece of world wine history. It is International Series pleasure to introduce Bodegas Chivite to our valued members.

About The Region

Our International Series wines are the products of several wine regions, most located in northern and north central Spain. Navarra is the oldest wine region in Spain and home to the Bodegas Chivite, our featured winery. Other regions represented are the Rueda, Ribera del Duero and the incredible wine producing region that is known as the Rioja. The modern Rioja Region is comprised of three sub regions; Rioja Alta, Rioja Alavesa and Rioja Baja. Each sub region is markedly different. The Rioja Alta is the largest (45,000 acres) and is filled with alluvial soils, and assorted clays. Its vineyards are located a mostly higher altitudes, generating lesser quantities but generally higher quality fruit. The middle sub region, Rioja Alavesa, is a collection of terraced vineyards that are grown on limestone and clay. This area is the smallest in total acreage, with around 25,000 acres under vine, but is capable of producing excellent grapes. The lower sub region, Rioja Baja, is comprised of mostly clay, both ferruginous and calcareous. Its total acreage is around 37,000 acres. The wines of the Rioja Baja are considered to be of higher alcoholic content than its more northerly neighbors are blessed with more earthy overtones.

Paella with Seafood, Chicken & Chorizo


2 chicken thighs
2 chicken legs
1 tsp. dried oregano
2 Tbs. sweet paprika
salt & freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 Spanish chorizo sausage
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 Spanish onion, diced
1 16-oz. can whole tomatoes,crushed
1 cup Spanish rice, short-medium grain
1 tsp. saffron threads
3 cups water, warm
4 jumbo shrimp, peeled with heads & tails on
2 lobster tails, split
6 littleneck clams, scrubbed
1/2 cup sweet peas,frozen and thawed
Fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves,for garnish
Lemon wedges, for serving


Rinse the chicken pieces and pat dry. Mix the oregano & paprika with salt & pepper in small bowl. Rub spice mixture on chicken & marinate for 30 min. Heat olive oil in a wide shallow skillet over med-high heat. Place chicken in pan, skin side down & brown on all sides, turning with tongs. Add chorizo & continue to cook until oil is a vibrant red color. Remove chicken & sausage to a platter lined with paper towels. Return pan to stove & lower heat to medium. Make a sofrito by sauteing the garlic, onion & tomatoes; cook until mixture caramelizes a bit & flavors meld; season with salt & pepper. Fold in the rice, stirring to coat grains. Stir the saffron into rice. Pour in the water & simmer for 10 min, gently moving the pan around so the rice cooks evenly & absorbs the liquid. Do not cover or constantly stir like risotto. Add the shrimp, lobster, clams, reserved chicken, & chorizo. Give the paella a couple of good stirs to tuck in all the pieces and allow to simmer without stirring until the rice is done, about 15 min. Scatter the peas on top & continue to cook for 5 minutes, until paella looks fluffy and moist. The ideal paella has a toasted rice bottom called socarrat. Allow to rest off heat for 5 min, and garnish with parsley. Serve with lemon wedges. Recipe provided by

Pork Tenderloin with Hazelnut Romesco


2 (1-pound) pork tenderloins
olive oil
salt & freshly ground pepper

Romesco Sauce
1/4 cup olive oil
6 peeled garlic cloves
1 red bell pepper, grilled, peeled & seeded
2 ripe plum tomatoes
2 ancho chiles, soaked in boiling water until soft,seeded
1 slice white bread, crust removed, small cubes
1/2 cup red wine
1/4 cup shelled hazelnuts
1 Tbs. honey
salt & freshly ground pepper

Vinaigrette Ingredients
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1/2 shallot, peeled & finely diced
1 Tbs. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. honey
1 tsp. minced fresh oregano, or more to taste
salt & freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup pure olive oil


For the Pork: Preheat grill. Rub pork with oil & season with salt & pepper. Place on grill & grill until golden brown, turn over & continue grilling to desired doneness. Let rest & cut on the bias.
For the Romesco Sauce: Heat olive oil in large saute pan
over high heat until smoking. Separately saute the garlic, bell
pepper, tomatoes, chiles, & bread cubes until lightly browned,
about 2 min. each. Remove each ingredient with a slotted
spoon as it is done. Deglaze pan with wine. Place all sauteed
ingredients and deglazing liquid into a food processor & blend
until smooth. Add the hazelnuts & process until finely chopped.
Add the honey & season to taste with salt & pepper.
For the Vinaigrette: Whisk together vinegar, shallot, mustard,
honey & oregano in a small bowl. Season with salt & pepper
to taste. Slowly whisk in olive oil until emulsified.
Serve pork tenderloin with a dollop of Hazelnut Romesco and
drizzle with Fresh Oregano Vinaigrette. Enjoy!