Brothers Xabier, Iñaki and Mikel Sanz started this project with a 2007 Graciano. Soon after they partnered with their friend Rafael Regadera who showed them the great potential of recovering old Garnacha vineyards in the vicinity of Fitero in southern Navarra. The landscape in this area — encompassing the first foothills of the Sistema Ibérico mountain range— differs widely from the Ebro Valley flatlands, thus the wines show more freshness than what is customary in this subarea of DO Navarra known as Ribera Baja.
Viña Zorzal currently owns and grows 52 hectares, 25 of which are traditional Garnacha bush vines; the remaining land is planted with Graciano and some Tempranillo, Mazuelo and Garnacha Gris —locally known as Garnacha Roya—, plus Viura, Garnacha Blanca and Chardonnay. Wines are made at the family winery in Corella which was renamed Viña Zorzal. Garnacha expert and winemaker Jorge Navascués from the neighboring region of Aragón consults for them.
The winery takes the name after the thrush (zorzal in Spanish), a bird which also appears on their colourful labels. The wine range offers outstanding value. It starts with two entry-level young Garnachas. The rosé (around 15,000 bottles, €6.95 in Spain) and red (60,000 bottles, €6.5) are followed by Viña Zorzal Graciano (35,000 bottles, around €7.5 in Spain) which is aged for five months in oak barrels and is probably this producer’s smartest buy. Single-varietal Chardonnay and Tempranillo wines are also produced and carry the same price tag.
For a little bit extra, the range of single-vineyard Garnacha wines is highly rewarding. Corral de los Altos (5,900 bottles, around €12 in Spain) is a fragrant, vibrant red sourced from two stony plots on a plateau exposed to the Cierzo, a northwest wind that usually blows in the area. It is worth tasting Corral de los Altos against the more mineral Malayeto (11,000 bottles, €12) which comes from a 2.3ha plot planted at 520 metres elevation on clay-sandy soils with stones on the surface. The top brand, Señora de las Alturas (1,500 bottles, €20), is a refined and deep red made from the oldest Garnacha vines, some of them ungrafted, in the Pontigos vineyard.
Graciano Cuatro del Cuatro (€15, 2,900 bottles) honours the birth date of Antonio Sanz, founder of the winery and father of the three Sanz brothers, a man who championed this variety in his vineyards in Corella (southern Navarra). The best grapes and barrels are selected to produce a refined, less herbaceous version of this grape variety.
The Sanz brothers and Rafa Regadera have decided to strengthen ties with their importers through exclusive wines from their own vineyards and plots: La Cueva de la Mora Garnacha is made exclusively for The Wine Society wine club, while Sea of Dreams, both red and white, is a partnership with their British importer Indigo Wines.
More original are their alliances with other domestic and international winemakers. These collaborative wines began with Lecciones de Vuelo, an initiative by Viña Zorzal in which each year they invite a winemaker friend to convey their vision of the local terroir into the bottle with grapes from the plot they like the most. The guests include Jorge Navascués, Matías Michelini and Fredi Torres, whose 2019 vintage is now on release. The 2020 and 2021 Lecciones de Vuelo are produced by Daniel Niepoort, who has also made a Nat Cool Garnacha with Viña Zorzal, and Arturo de Miguel (Artuke), respectively.
All of them chose grapes from Pontigos, the most prized vineyard of the Sanz-Regadera team. It is located in Fitero and its two hectares are planted with pre-phylloxera Garnacha vines on stony soils that charm everyone who walks by. Next to the Garnacha plot, the Sanz brothers and their partner recently acquired a plot with Mazuela, a historic variety in Navarra before the arrival of oidium. Sadly, there are very few plants left of this variety nowadays. Viña Zorzal plans to launch a single varietal of this Mazuela on the market under the name La Buena Moza.
Of all the alliances established by Viña Zorzal, the most fruitful, judging by the countless cuvées they generate, is with Matías Michelini. In 2018 the Argentine producer, whose winery is called Zorzal Wines, came to Corella to make his Lecciones de Vuelo. At present, they have several wines in common and two projects: Pequeñas Puertas, for single vineyards wines made from varieties other than Garnacha, and Punto de Fuga, a collection of wines from extreme landscapes in Argentina, specifically in Cafayate and the Uco Valley, and Garnacha in Navarra.
La Moribunda (660 bottles, €35), Jirafas (1600 bottles, €35) and La Peli (660 bottles, €35) are the trio of wines on the market from the Pequeñas Puertas collection, with sophisticated velvety labels. The former is a Tempranillo from 35-year-old vines planted on stony soils in a site called Majarrasas, while the latter two come from La Carbonela plot. Jirafas is a Viura aged in concrete eggs and 500l barrels with great precision and harmony while La Peli is a remarkable Garnacha Gris (roya, in the area) with the colour and nose of a Navarra rosé but with the texture of a red wine thanks to its contact with the skins.
The top Punto de Fuga Corral del Mate Garnacha (660 bottles, €69) is vinified with stems and comes from Los Largos plot in Corral de Los Altos. This five-hectare site in Fitero is also the source of other wines such as Sea of Dreams red or Corral de los Altos and Garnaché, also by Matías Michelini.
In addition to all these wines, Viña Zorzal carries out microvinifications to gain an in-depth knowledge of their terroirs. Sometimes they result in fully-fledged wines, but in cases such as the old Garnacha vines from La del Pulpo plot, full of layerings and vines with arms that look like an octopus (pulpo means octopus), they are still striving to find the best expression of the grapes.
Not content with recovering and looking after old vineyards, having multiple partnerships and even running a company selling imported wines, the dynamic team at Viña Zorzal wants to leave a legacy for future generations. To this end, it has just bought a couple of hectares surrounded by olive trees and scrubland in Las Roscas, an area with sandstone, limestone and clay soils at an elevation of over 500 metres, with curious rock formations that are home to protected wildlife. There is no recent evidence of vineyards, but Viña Zorzal believes the area has good potential and is working with viticultural consultant Julio Prieto to decide which varieties are best suited here.
They have also decided to explore Garnacha outside the boundaries of their village. Their winemaker Javier Colio had alerted them to the tremendous potential of Lerga, a historic vineyard area to the northeast of San Martín de Unx, at 615 metres elevation and with more rainfall than Fitero. There used to be 100 hectares, but now there are only 11 hectares left, six of which are grown by a local grower, with whom they have reached a partnership to vinify his grapes. In the future they will make single vineyard wines, but for the time being they plan to release 2,000 bottles of a village wine in the summer of 2022 at a price of €15-20.
The Sanz brothers and their partner have also launched El Inquilino, a brand of Rioja reds (inquilino means tenant and the label displays a wooden bird house). They make two Garnachas -one crianza and one with no ageing- and a Viura from vineyards in the Najerilla Valley. The latest news is that they will release a single-vineyard wine in Badarán in the 2022 vintage. Likewise, they do not rule out the possibility of expanding their horizons and launching a txakoli in the not too distant future.
Total production is 350,000 bottles, 80% of which are sold abroad.
At Viña Zorzal they are particularly aware of the impact of industrial installations to generate renewable energy on the local landscape. Indeed, they are actively involved in the Asociación de Paisajes de Navarra, of which Iñaki Sanz is president.
The winery is not open to visitors but it does have an online shop.