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Bodegas Viña Magaña, Tinto ReservaNavarra, Spain 1997 (750mL)

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Bodegas Viña Magaña, Tinto Reserva Navarra, Spain 1997 (750mL)

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Alcohol

When we first tasted this stunning 1997 Reserva, two things happened in rapid succession: We compared it to expensive, decades-old Pomerol and then joined Viña Magaña’s sub rosa cult following. Though young by European standards, this legendary and critically acclaimed estate has been fooling/stunning blind tasters for decades, just like it did us. For one, it’s fueled by Merlot, but it’s the origin of these vines that make today’s tiny parcel of ‘97 such a jaw-dropping affair:


Back in 1970, Juan Magaña acquired Merlot cuttings from the very nursery that supplies Pomerol’s Château Pétrus—undoubtedly among the world’s greatest wines. For comparison, Pétrus can fetch anywhere between $2,500 to $7,000, and even that’s not a hard ceiling! Although today’s mature Spanish gem is a far cry from those prices, we understand that $90 isn’t exactly pocket change either. But let’s look at it from another angle: This 24-year-old Bordeaux-style showpiece breaks down to just $3.75 per year, most of which were spent slumbering in Magaña’s cellar. Without perfect provenance, this dark, savory, and deeply seductive red would be a shadow of its former self but, thankfully, we don’t have to worry about that. This ’97 is absolutely firing on all cylinders right now and I urge you to blind your fellow friends on it, especially those with ultra-expensive Bordeaux leanings.




This is a winery with a long and distinguished history, so it’s a little surprising that there are still bottles of direct-from-the-winery 1997 to be had. It’s a testament to the Spanish penchant for cellaring wines for extended periods, and Viña Magaña’s impressive size: Their vineyard holdings total about 120 hectares in Navarra, a DO which sits to the east of Rioja, along the Ebro River in the shadow of the Pyrenees. The soils are a mix of clay, limestone, and river-borne silt, sand, and gravel (similar to Bordeaux), with a climate that mixes mountain and Mediterranean influences—the physical area covered by the DO is quite vast, so there are a number of subzones with unique microclimates, with those closer to the Pyrenees obviously skewing more “continental.”


While their vineyard holdings are wide-ranging, the Magaña bodega is headquartered in the town of Barillas, near the southern tip of the Navarra DO in the ‘Ribera Baja’ subzone. As with Rioja, which borders it to the west, Navarra’s wine history has long been intertwined with that of Bordeaux. Educational pilgrimages to Bordeaux were commonplace among Rioja/Navarra winemakers in the 18th and 19th centuries—not only was Bordeaux just 150 miles away, but it was also the most prestigious wine zone in the world, and perhaps the biggest takeaway for Spanish winemakers in that period was the use of oak barrels for aging. Later on, when the phylloxera louse decimated Bordeaux’s vineyards, the Bordelais looked to Rioja and Navarra for grapes and wine to keep them going while they re-planted their vineyards.


So, as is noted prominently in any discussion of Viña Magaña, the Merlot used in today’s wine comes from vine material originally obtained from the same nursery that supplied Château Pétrus in Pomerol. It comprises up to 65% of the blend, with Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Tempranillo making up the rest. The wine spent 12 months aging in French and American oak barriques followed by 36 months in bottle before multiple releases. Today’s mature parcel was among the most recent releases from Viña Magaña’s cellar.


The perfect provenance of this ’97 is on full display in the glass, in the form of a surprisingly youthful, nearly opaque ruby-black color with slight hints of brick at the rim. At 24 years old, it is now in its absolute sweet spot now. Decant this wine (watching for sediment) for 10 minutes before serving at 60-65 degrees in Bordeaux stems, and you’ll be greeted with a rush of dried black and red plum, cassis, black cherry, pipe tobacco, cedar, grilled herbs, roasted meat, turned earth, and vintage leather. Medium-plus in body and showing off some mature ‘secondary’ aromas, it still has a trace of dusty, fine-grained tannin lending texture and lots of freshness keeping the wine in pitch-perfect balance. It is a rare treat to get to pop and pour a mature wine of this level at this price, and were you to serve it to knowledgeable guests, I can’t see them guessing anything but serious Right Bank Bordeaux here—there just aren’t many classic reference points for a wine like this. Enjoy!




Bodegas Viña Magaña, Tinto Reserva Navarra, Spain 1997 - SommSelect

  • CountrySpain
  • RegionNavarra
  • Sub-RegionRibera Baja
  • SoilClay-Limestone w/ Gravel & Sand
  • BlendMerlot 60% w/ Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Syrah
  • Alcohol13.5%
  • OakFrench & American Barriques

  • CountrySpain
  • RegionNavarra
  • Sub-RegionRibera Baja
  • SoilClay-Limestone w/ Gravel & Sand
  • BlendMerlot 60% w/ Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Syrah
  • Alcohol13.5%
  • OakFrench & American Barriques
  • Temp.Serve at 60-65° F
  • GlasswareBordeaux Stem
  • DrinkingNow-2025
  • Decanting15 Minutes
  • PairingPan-Seared Spanish Steaks