Get to Know Spain’s Navarra DO

Navarra is one of Spain’s most ancient wine regions. Historical evidence dates grape growing back to 2 BC when ancient Romans built wineries there. The wines gained prominence in the Middle Ages. By the 18th century viticulture was the main agriculture in the region, and when the phylloxera outbreak hit France, Navarra benefited from increased wine sales. A wine region as old and prominent as Navarra, why don’t more wine consumers know and drink Navarra wines?

The Navarra DO is located in an autonomous region by the same name in the northeastern region of Spain, boarded by the Pyrenees Mountains to the north and La Rioja to the southwest and in close proximity to the Ebro River.  It received DO status in 1933, and has been improving its wine quality ever since. Navarra’s capital city is Pamplona, famous for the annual Fiesta de San Fermin, also known as “the running of the bulls,” that takes place July 6 – 14 annually. Here is a little information to help you get to know Navarra DO:

  • Navarra is divided into five distinct sub-zones:
  1. Ribera Baja: located in the southern tip of Navarra; Tempranillo is dominate grape planted, with Garnacha closely behind in second; flat river plane with sparse vegetation, highly fertile soil comprised of deep, loamy, rocky soil, areas of limestone bedrock, other areas of silty loam with marl and sand; climate hot and dry, heavily influence by the Mediterranean Sea, with the longest growing season.
  2. Ribera Alta: located in Navarra’s midsection it is the largest of the five sub-regions; Tempranillo is the dominate grape, also planted Graciano and Chardonnay among others; soils here vary greatly depending on elevation, soils include fine or silty loam, marl and sand, loamy clay soils with calcareous content, limestone bedrock, and rocky components; climate wines this region is transitional with its southern areas influenced by the Mediterranean Sea transitioning to the north where the Pyrenees creates a much colder climate.
  3. Tierra Estella: located in a crescent area in the northwest corner of Navarra boarding Basque country and La Rioja; main grape planted in Tempranillo, followed by Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay; another mixture of soils depending on elevation that include heavy clay soils, multi-colored marl, alluvial soil, iron rich soil, and deep loamy soil; climate is influenced by a sub-humid zone to the north and exceedingly dry zone to the south.
  4. Valdizarbe: located in central northern Navarra; a variety of grapes including Tempranillo, Garnacha, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, and Malvasia are grown here; soil composition, depth, and texture varies depending on elevation and substrata composition; this region is the most humid and verdant, Atlantic influence is limited, vineyards are planted in the sunniest locations.
  5. Baja Montaña: located in eastern central Navarra; Garnacha comprises over 60% of all grapes planted here; soil is very similar to Valdizarbe; of the five sub-zones, here the most pronounced continental climate is experienced due to the Pyrenees Mountains.
  • Historically the wine best known from Navarra has been rosé produced from Garnacha.
  • Navarra DO contains approximately 11,000 hectares of vines, oldest being about 30 years old.
  • In the 1980’s, it was determined by EVENA, the official state laboratory of Navarra, that red wine blends should be the future of the region; therefore, efforts were made to promote blends of Tempranillo with international varieties of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay were also planted during this time.
  • Navarra wines pair with a variety of international cuisines; however, enjoy them with the cuisine of the region and you will be transported to Spain, suggestions include: chorizo, lamb chops, trout, wild mushrooms, game birds, white asparagus, fire-roasted piquillo peppers, and sheep’s cheese.

To get you started on your Navarra wine consumption adventure here are six wines to enjoy:

2015 Bodegas Principe de Viana Edicion Rosa ($21): Crafted of 100% Garnacha; medium salmon with orange and brown hues; pronounced aromas of white stone fruit, orange zest and blossom, jasmine, dried apricots, honey, and fresh strawberries; fresh and crisp on the palate, lively and refreshing with high acidity that coats the palate and creates a long, mouthwatering tart finish.

2015 Bodegas Principe de Viana Roble Navarra Spain ($11): Crafted of 100% Garnacha; medium+ ruby; pronounced aromas of violets, baked cherries, black raspberries, and currants, baking spices, fresh tobacco, dried herbs, and vanilla; silky youthful medium+ tannins balanced with medium+ acidity, full body, rustic yet pleasing; long spicy finish.

2012 Bodegas Ochoa Crianza Navarra Spain ($23): Crafted of 100% Tempranillo; deep ruby; pronounced aromas of dried rose and herbs; stewed plums, blackberries, cherries, and currants, damp underbrush, leather, tobacco, touch of funk; rich and round on the palate, rustic yet delicious; high grippy tannins, high acidity, full body, long rustic earth finish, a great wine to enjoy with a steak.

2008 Bodegas Ochoa Reserva Navarra Spain ($33): Crafted of 55% Tempranillo, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 15% Merlot; deep garnet with scarlet hues; pronounced aromas of dried roses and herbs; cooked dark cherries, blackberries, plums, and currants, sweet baking spice, smoke, damp leather, and roasted espresso beans; nice tension between rustic and elegance, fruit and earth; full body, high tannins and acidity, long juicy finish.

2015 Bodegas Vega Del Castillo Garnacha Cepas Viejas Navarra Spain ($8): Crafted of 100% Garnacha; medium+ ruby; medium+ aromas of fresh roses, bright cherries, blackberries, black raspberries, sweet baking spices, ash, leather, and milk chocolate; lively on the palate, fresh and bright, medium youthful tannins and medium acidity, smooth on palate, medium+ body, long finish.

2013 Bodegas Vega Del Castillo Capa Roja Roble Navarra Spain ($10): Crafted of 100% Tempranillo; deep ruby; medium aromas baked cherries, raspberries, blackberries, black currant leaves, forest floor, sweet baking spice, chocolate, leather, and vanilla; full body, youthful grippy high tannins that feel a touch hot on the palate, high acidity, full body, long spice driven finish; another wine ideal with a hearty meal such as pasta or steak.

Overall these wines were quite pleasing. It was a nice variety of easy drinkers to best with food wines, and they all taste much better than their inexpensive price tags. These would make great wines to pair with summer cookouts as well as hearty stews and braised meats in the winter. To learn more about these wines and the Navarra DO please visit Vinos DO Navarra.

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