Chivite pushes boundaries with barrel-fermented rosé

Spanish producer Chivite has launched a barrel-fermented rosé made from Garnacha grapes sourced from the Legardeta estate in northern Navarra.

It is the latest release from Julian Chivite’s collaboration with his friend Juan Mari Arzak, the star chef of the Basque region and owner of the eponymous three Michelin starred restaurant in San Sebastian.

Las Fincas Rosado Fermentado en Barrica 2018 is a small batch wine and just 2,114 bottles of 75 cl and 226 magnums of 150 cl.

It offers a complex, aromatic palate, with lots of peach, citrus, white flowers, toast and spicy notes, with excellent acidity and a long finish, which is somewhat unusual for a rosé.

Chivite has also released Las Fincas Blanco 2 Garnachas 2018, a white wine made from Garnacha and Garnacha Blanca, which is presented in a black bottle.

Julian Chivite took the time to give Drinks International a tasting of the new wines via Zoom. He said: “These wines complete the collaboration with Juan Mari Arzak. We are having success in good restaurants in Spain with these wines.”

The idea was initially conceived as foreign visitors to Arzak kept requesting pale rosé, which was uncommon in Spain at the time, so the chef turned to his friend to help out. The range has since expanded with some intriguing releases.

“It’s quite curious to have a black bottle for white wine,” said Chivite. “But half of this wine is made from black Garnacha. The other half is Garnacha Blanca. We thought it would be interesting to have a black bottle with white wine inside, just like the grape. The two grapes work well in combination to create a full bodied white wine.

“There is nobody else making a white wine from a red grape, as far as I know. Initial sales are going well, but it is not big volumes.”

Julian Chivite is the 11th generation winemaker from his family. He turned the business into a major regional player, spreading out of its Navarra heartland and opening a winery in Rioja, while producing wine from Rueda and Ribera del Duero, with an annual turnover of €20 million and annual production of 5 million bottles.

Spain’s Perelada Group, owner of Castillo Perelada in Empordà and Cims de Porrera in Priorat, bought the Chivite Group for an undisclosed sum in 2017. That created a large group with annual turnover of more than €60 million and sales in almost 100 markets around the world. 

Chivite remains upbeat despite the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic upon the wine trade.

He said: “We are suffering, because more than 90% of our sales are in the on-trade, but we are not planning to change our strategy. We are just being patient and waiting for the restaurants and bars to fully reopen.

“We lost nearly 40% of export sales, but we are optimistic for the future. Countries are returning to normality. I am very confident.”

When asked if the firm might end up with more wine than it can sell, he added: “The solution would be to sell wine in bulk and not use it for Chivite branded wine, so it would be a loss, but we may be obliged to do that.

“When we launch the new wines in February, we will have to look at what we have left from the previous vintage. It’s still quite early to predict what will happen. There has been a pretty big rebound. In September, when we get to the next vintage, we will see.”

Spain is on course to report a large grape harvest in 2020, and Chivite said he will consider green harvesting to control volumes next year. “We will look at green harvesting as a solution for next year,” he said. “We will try to have a short harvest of quantity, to limit the yields by green harvesting, to err on the side of caution.”