Improving the quality of Garnacha grapes in Navarra

A ten-year project to find the best clones in the region sees a daughter over-grafting vines planted by her father


The vineyards being over-grafted with better Garnacha clones

Improving the quality of Garnacha grapes in Navarra
  • Chris Boiling
  • 2018-11-20
With two ‘unstoppable whirlwinds’ in charge of the wines and vines at Spanish winery Bodegas Ochoa, the quest for improved quality is never-ending.
The latest example of this is the over-grafting of 2.5ha of Garnacha vines at the family’s vineyards south of Olite, in Navarra’s Ribera Alta sub-region. The scions have been selected from the best old vines in the region to produce a more concentrated, more flavourful red wine.
The scions are being grafted on to vines planted by Javier Ochoa, the fifth generation of the family to make wine at the estate. The Ochoa family, which now owns 145ha of vineyards, can trace its winemaking heritage back to 1370 but it was Javier who put it on the international wine map after quitting (after 11 years) as director of EVENA (Navarra Viticultural and Enological Research Center).

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The winery in Olite is now largely in the hands of the sixth generation, Javier and Mariví’s two daughters. Adriana (below left) has assumed the mantel of winemaker while her sister, Beatriz (below right), manages the commercial side of the estate.
The over-grafting is one of Adriana’s projects.

Bodegas Ochoa began over-grafting its underperforming Garnacha clones earlier this year
From 1994 to 1998, her father planted 12ha of Garnacha – using a variety of clones – in the predominantly limestone and clay soil of El Bosque de Traibuenas.
But when Adriana began making the estate’s wines, she thought parts of this parcel would benefit from better clones. Fortunately, the University of Navarra and the nursery Vitis Navarra had already started locating the best old Garnacha vines (over 40 years old) in the region in 2008. After the university’s Bernardo Royo and Gonzaga Santesteban, and Vitis Navarra’s Rafael Garcia had catalogued the ‘ancestral Garnachas’, cuttings were made and inspected for diseases. In 2011, the healthy plant material from about 2,000 biotypes was planted in an experimental plot in Pamplona, next to the university, and at another site in Vergalijo.
From these, Adriana has selected the best clones with the greatest affinity for her vineyard’s mesoclimate and soil. Bodegas Ochoa began over-grafting its underperforming Garnacha clones earlier this year.

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Adriana’s drive to produce even better wines is obvious. It’s one of the many things she has in common with her father. “We are slow, reflective, but when we fall in love with something, we become unstoppable whirlwinds,” she told Canopy.
She has also been carrying out tests to identify and isolate the best yeasts from their Finca El Secadero de Traibuenas vineyard.
Her message to the wine industry is: “Don't be afraid to try new things!”

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