Spain most notably known for the wines from Rioja and Ribera Del Duero, has a region that is often shadowed by its western neighbors. The wines of Navarra are well made and are Spain’s hidden gems.
Navarra is located in Northern Spain between the Pyrenees Mountain and the Ebro River. It is a region with a rich history of culture, art, wine and cuisine. The capital of the region is Pamplona, most notably known for attracting thrill seekers to run with the bulls. Navarra is also a region beautifully articulated by Hemingway in The Sun Also Rises. A region known for growing high quality produce and also a bustling culinary scene with it Michelin Star restaurants.
Most notable and possibly the best kept secret is the wonderful wines that come from this region. Navarra offers whites, rosés and red wines, in a diverse range of styles due to its varied and unique terroirs. There are three distinct climates, Atlantic, Continental and Meditterean in one very exciting wine region. Winemakers have a focus on innovation and experimentation combined with deep respect for the land and it’s traditions. The wines run a gamut of styles from crisp mineral driven whites, to pink fruit forward rosados, to concentrated spicy reds, and luscious sweet dessert wines.
The history of winemaking in Navarra dates back to the 1st century A.D. and then gained popularity and respect in the Middle Ages. It was not until more recently, in 1933 that the region obtained its D.O. status. For many years Garnacha was the most widely planted grape mixed with fruits, vegetables and high quality produce that Navarra is most known for. Garnacha was used to produce rosé wines. The Spanish loved the color and fruit forwardness of rosés. It was not until the 1960’s that pioneering efforts by local winemakers and government funded research, lead to plantings of Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay. Today Tempranillo is the most widely planted grape varietal of the region. Though in recent years, winemakers have come back full circle and regard Garnacha as a national treasure. Many winemakers are returning to tradition and are putting greats efforts to create world-class wines from Garnacha with bright flavors, concentration and complexity.
There are five main regions in Navarra, each with unique climates, terroir, soils and grapes.
Ribera Baja – This is the southern most area of Navarro and is in the Ebro Valley with the Moncayo Mountains to the South. It has a Mediterranean climate and is the most warmest of the regions. The main grapes grown here are Tempranillo, Garnacha, Viura and Moscadel. The wines tend to be more full-bodied in Ribera Baja.
Ribera Alta – This is the heart of Navarra. Rio Ega flows through the center. The region has a continental climate with gentle landscapes and high terraces. Soils are loamy-clay, sand, and limestones. The main varietals are Tempranillo, Graciano, Chardonnay, and Moscatel de Grano Menudo.
Tierra Estella – Located in the Northwestern part of the region, it neighbors are Basque Country and La Rioja. It has a hilly landscape with soils of clay, marl, loam, gravel and sand. The main varietals grown here are Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay.
Valdizarbe – This region is located in the north central part of the region with the Arga River running through the middle. The area has gentle hills and valleys with a climate that has Atlantic influences. The main grapes of the region are Tempranillo, Garnacha, Cabernet Sauvgnon, Merlot and Chardonnay.
Baja Montaña – This region is located in the northeastern part of Navarra at the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountain with an Atlantic climate. The region produces mostly rosés. The main grape varietals are Garnacha and Tempranillo.
The wines of Navarra do an excellent job presenting what is in the bottle. The bottles are clearly marked with the below designations, so the consumers fully understand the complexity and age of the wine.
- Cosecha – Young wines of the latest vintage, with no oak
- Dulce Natural – Naturally sweet wines
- Tinto Roble – Red wines with a minimum of 3 months in the barrel
- Crianza – 24 months aging, minimum 9 months in the barrel
- Reserva – 60 months aging, minimum 12 months in the barrel
- Gran Reserva – 60 months aging, minimum 18 months in the barrel
The wines of Navarra are expressive and genuine, representing wines with a sense of place. The wines are very food friendly as they are well-balanced, and expressive with nice acidity and texture. The wines pair perfectly with a range of Spanish tapas, or simple plate of cheese and charcuterie. Nothing pairs better with Navarra wines than the local gastronomy of the region. Pamplona is known for its lively Pintxos culture and sophisticated restaurants. There is a natural abundance of local produce of meats, cheeses and organic vegetables. The food culture is so prevalent as evidenced by the many food festivals held throughout the year.
Below is a sampling of the wonderful wines from Navarra
Vega Sindoa Chardonnay 2015 $12 – This unoaked Chardonnay has lovely aromas of stone fruit and citrus. On the palate there is nice minerality with notes of vanilla, pear and apple. A creamy textures coats the palate with bright acidity through the finish.
Viña Zorzal Garnacha 2016 $11 -This is 100% Garnacha from dry farmed old vines grown at 1500 feet. A deep brooding purple color leads to intense fruit and spice on the nose. The flavor is robust and spicy with lingering aromatic freshness. This is a suberb pairing with cheese and meats.
Otazu Premium Cuvee 2013 $15 – The wine is a blend of 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, and 20% Tempranillo aged in French oak barrels for 12 months. Cherry red color, the wine had a very intense and complex nose dominated by blackcherries, earth wood and spice. Smooth, round tannins on the palate with an elegant fruity finish.
Altos De Inurrieta Reserva 2012 $25 – The wine is a red blend of 44% Graciano, 33% Cabernet Sauvignon , 13% Syrah and 10% Garnacha. Dark cherry red wine, with aromas of ripe red berries in balance with some leather notes. Elegant and meaty in the mouth with ripe tannins. Fine and pleasant with a silky finish. Aged in 13 months French oak. A very exciting wine.
Discover and taste the wines of Navarra. Navarra wines are perfect for those looking for quality wines at a value price point. Navarra also offer wines that are rare and collectible. To learn more about the wines of Navarra visit Vinos D.O. Navarra
This month our Wine Pairing Weekend writers group are focusing on the wines of Navarra. Please click on the link below to explore more on the region and the wines.
Jill Barth of L’Occasion: “Eat and Drink like Hemingway in Spain’s Navarra Region”
Nancy Brazil of Pull That Cork: “Wines of Navarra and a Meal to Match”
David Crowley of Cooking Chat: “Steak with Manchego Mushroom Sauce with Red Wine from Navarra”
Jade Helm of Tasting Pour: “Lamb Sofrito Nachos Night of Navarra Wines”
Nicole Ruiz Hudson of Somm’s Table: “Cooking to the Wine: Senorio de Otazu and Broiled Skirt Steak with Romesco Sauce”
Wendy Klik of A Day in The Life on the Farm: “A taste of Navarra Spain”
Camilla M. Mann of Culinary Adventures with Camilla: “Pacific Rock Crab Claws + 2016 Otazu Merlot Rosado “
Jennifer Gentile Martin of Vino Travels:“Pilgrimage to the Navarra with Bodega Inurrieta”
Jane Niemeyer of Always Ravenous: “What Foods to Pair with Wines from Navarra Spain”
Sarah Ozimek of Curious Cuisiniere: “Basic Spanish Flan and Navarra Wine”
Cindy Rynning of Grape Experiences: “¡Salud! to Tapas Night and the Wines of Navarra”
Julie Santiago of Wine N Friends: “Taste of Pintxos and Navarra Wines”
Rupal Shankar The Syrah Queen: “Navarra – Spain’s Hidden Gem”
Lauren Walsh The Swirling Dervish: “Sipping and Cooking with Patxaran: a Taste of Ancient Navarra”
Host Gwendolyn Alley The Wine Predator: “Along the Way with Wine and Food from Navarra Spain.”
Join us at 11am EST for a twitter chat(#WinePW) about the wine and food of Navarra.