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Aug 02 2019

Fernando Chivite, Oenologist: "Spanish Rosé Wine Is In The Midst Of A Revolution"

Fernando Chivite has been creating wine-related projects and quality wines for more than 30 years. His most recent venture is Arbayún, a rosé made in the mountains entirely from Garnacha grapes and aged on its lees. A very personal and groundbreaking style that opens the door to new possibilities for Spanish rosé.

Arbayún rosé wine from Spain by Fernando Chivite. Photo: Arbayún winery 

You're considered one of the leading experts on rosé wines in Spain. What do you love most about this type of wine?

As an oenologist, rosés represent a technical challenge that brings together the difficulties of maceration—like in the case of red wines—but much more fine-tuned, with the challenges posed by vinification in the liquid phase—as is the case of white wines—and that of a fermentation process that must be very refined, and a subsequent ageing process on its own fine lees, as is the case of Arbayún wine.

The expression of a variety like Garnacha, considered to be one of the best in the world, if not the best, in rosé production, and in the case of Arbayún, being able to achieve a very respectable evolution in the bottle, are the main challenges posed by this wine.
In my case, having spent much of my career trying to better understand the quality of these wines makes this an even bigger challenge for me.

Spain is one of the world's leading rosé producers, but Spain is not easily identified as a rosé wine producer.

Explaining this in the space of an interview is impossible, given its complexity. At any rate, I believe that the main reasons for this have to do with the fact that Spain's wine culture is on the conservative side and has a tendency to react to innovation quite slowly.

In the specific case of rosé, it's important to remember that, broadly speaking, Spanish wineries haven't been focused on producing these types of wines, except in traditional rosé-producing areas such as Navarra, Cigales and part of Ribera del Duero and Rioja. At the moment there's a small revolution, with Spanish rosés with a lot of personality and considerable potential in international markets.

How did the Arbayún project arise? How did you discover these old Garnacha vines in a natural enclave as stunning as Lumbier Canyon, in Navarra? In what way does this low, mountainous zone affect the quality of the Garnacha grapes?

Arbayún rosé wine from Spain by Fernando Chivite. Photo: Arbayún winery

It arose from efforts to produce quality rosé wine in Navarra over an extended period, the bulk of it Garnacha rosé. The vines and the area are already there. The goal is to highlight the enormous potential of a variety like Garnacha, an exceptional grape for producing notable reds and rosés.

I know rosé better; I'm more comfortable making these types of wines and I feel like I have more to contribute, since there are already a lot of great Garnacha red wine producers in Navarra. Using a raw material like these grapes, which are capable of producing outstanding red wines, to make rosés seems insane; however, it's the best way to produce a wine with character, personality, and enough quality to be consistent with what I said before.

At my age, I see it as an honorable and coherent way to do my job and to add value in the area. Moreover, the global boom in quality rosé wines which, in my opinion, is not a fad, is helping raise awareness about rosés from Navarra in all their splendor, going well beyond simply being the product of the year, easy, refreshing and nice, but technically banal.

Another distinctive feature is the magnum edition of Arbayún rosé, a format that few rosé producers dare offer. How does this format impact ageing and the evolution in the bottle?

In addition to the format's appeal and exclusivity, given that a magnum holds 1.5 liters, this helps the wine develop more slowly in the bottle. When I realized Arbayún's great capacity to age in the bottle, thanks to this specific technique, I decided to bottle several hundred magnums and mark them as "rosé for ageing" on the label; in that sense I think we're also pioneers.


Text: Rodrigo García Fernández/@ICEX

Translation: Samara Kamenecka/@ICEX


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