The Roman Empire gave so much to Spain. Besides art, history and language, they brought the pleasure of wine-making. We have 96 different appellations of origin (in Spain, we say Denominación de Origen, or D.O.), and each one of them has its own personality. You find the strength in Rioja red wines, the sweetness in sherry from Jerez, and the sparkle in the Catalonian Cava
How Otazu winery started
Navarre is located at the foot of the Pyrenees, the mountain range that separates Spain from France. Here is where Otazu Winery [http://www.otazu.com] produces some of the finest wines in Spain. (D.O. Navarra). Otazu is in fact the northernmost Spanish winery producing red grapes.
There are records that show wine production in Otazu dating back to the 800s A.D. It was the most relevant moment of the Camino De Santiago. This is the Saint James Pilgrimage, which is one of the three most important Christian pilgrimages in the world, and it used to cross Otazu´s property.
The Camino brought many things to northern Spain: incredible art such as the Romanesque chapels, and new cultural styles such as gothic. It was a liberating road that opened people’s minds. Even today, each pilgrim leaves part of their dreams, their lives, and their knowledge on the Camino. I guess French pilgrims left the know-how of red wine production.
Otazu in the middle ages
It was in the 1300s that the Lord of Otazu constructed part of the palace that is still standing today. By the 1400s, the kingdom of Navarra started to fade, and we had continuous wars against Castile, Aragon and France. Otazu had to construct a defensive tower in order to be safe.
The late 1700s was a dark period for Otazu and also dark times for wine production. A huge economic crisis almost closed the property. The route of the Camino de Santiago was moved for political reasons and pilgrims never walked through Otazu again. To top all of this, the phylloxera (vine-destroying aphids) arrived in Spain and killed all the vineyards.
The wine production is alive
Two centuries were needed for the rebirth of Otazu. And what a rebirth!
The owners started with the most important part of a winery, the grapes. They prepared the 319 hectares around the house but only planted 110 hectares of vineyards (Cabernet, Merlot, Tempranillo and Chardonnay). The rest of the property is a natural ecosystem that helps the grapes grow healthier.
Once the wine production was ready, they started with the winery. The most important thing was to try to preserve as much as possible the history of the property. Today, we find an incredible Romanesque church dating from the 12th-century, the 14th-century military tower, the 16th-century palace, and the 18-century French-style manufacturing plant. Under this manufacturing plant is where we find the cellar.
The cellar should deserve a post for itself. Personally, I think it is the most breathtaking wine temple in the world. Everything was constructed underground. This way, temperature and humidity are controlled naturally. As you walk in, you smell the sweet aroma of the wine mixed with the oak barrels. Suddenly, I don´t know why but you feel at peace. It might be the quietness or the dim light, but a feeling of warmth surrounds you. Then, when the lights are turned on, your eyes cannot believe what they are seeing. You are surrounded by hundreds of French oak barrels resting under magnificent modern arches that reminds me of a gothic cathedral. It is almost a holy place.
And the best thing at Otazu is “the wine”
Besides the architecture, the modern art collection will blow your mind. Personally I am an art freak, and every time I visit this winery I learn something new and I am inspired to learn about a new artist. You will find pieces by Julian Opie, Ai Weiwei, Manolo Valdés and so many more…. The art selection shows an incredible sensibility and knowledge for modern art.
So, if the architecture is amazing, and the art is sublime, what about the wine? Well It happens that it is as good as the rest of the winery. One of their wines is called Altar. I love it! It has rested 18 months in a barrel and 40 more in the bottle. It has the perfect balance between the Cabernet Sauvignon, the Tempranillo and the Merlot grapes.
If you can’t make your own visit to Otazu Winery, you can still find their wines here. Or send an E-mail to IKER email@example.com he will let you know what importer you need to contact in order to enjoy Otazu´s wine in your country.
If you want to learn more about OTAZU, watch this live tour we did of the winery.????