Navagating to Nekeas in the Navarra
So just what is Nekeas anyway? A winery making excellent wines in the Navarra region of Spain.
Although I’m home now, not continuing to share more of my amazing adventures would be withholding great information. Who knows when one may decide to venture off to Northwest Spain!
To give a quick overview of the Navarra, it experiences climatic effects from both the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea, and has 15,000 hectares (roughly 38 acres) in five sub-regions: Valdizerbe, Baja Montana, Ribera Baja, Ribera Alta and Terra Estella. Temperatures (from 82∞ Fahrenheit in summer to 28 in winter), soil and rainfall differ markedly throughout these areas.
Navarra DO (Designation of Origin) regulations permit using 11 grape varieties: garnacha (grenache), tempranillo, mazuelo (carignan), graciano, cabernet sauvignon and merlot for reds and rosados (rosés), and viura (macabeo), chardonnay, muscat, grenache blanc and malvasia for whites. Red grapes cover 95% of the area.
I ventured to Bodegas Nekeas in the northern most region who’s grapes are also grown in the northern most area of Navarra. Nekeas is a cooperative formed by a few families who had vineyards and were separately making wine in the Valley. They export a large majority of their wine under both the Nekeas and Vega Sindoa labels. The US exporter with whom they worked thought the name “Nekeas” sounded too Greek-like and requested they change the name for the US market. “Vega Sindoa” is the name of the river that runs through the Nekeas Valley just below the winery.
We were there mid-September and harvest was just around the corner. Greeted by the marketing person and given an overview of the operation, she turned us over to winemaker Concha Vecino, as Concha had a free moment.
Concha told us it’s her favorite time of the year as she spends mornings riding her bicycle through the vineyards taking grape samples to monitor ripeness. She invited us into her lab
and shared her morning samples.
We tasted a whole grape, then the skins alone without any pulp because grape skins contain many flavor components including tannins. You can have ripe grapes but unripe tannins!
This particular day, although the brix (grape sugar) from one vineyard was where she wanted it, the grape skins were not. The skins were definitely bitter.
For those interested, tannins are organic compounds that react with proteins and other chemicals. They are good because they impart flavors, round out red wines and give them a feeling of weight in your mouth. They’re found in grape skins and seeds, and are also present in other plant materials like wood and some fruits. Oak wine barrels can also be an additional source of tannins.
We tasted, talked and laughed with Concha for over an hour. What an amazing experience! It’s not everyday you get to spend time with a winemaker in her / his lab tasting grape samples and learning first hand! Nekeas wines are quality, approachable, tasty and very reasonably priced. I’ll be seeking them out with a smile on my face and remembering my morning with Concha.
El Chaparral is the name of their old vine Grenache vineyard.