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May 18, 2017

Navarra is in northern Spain and although a prolific, historic region, it's not well-known. Traditionally it's been associated with making fruit-driven rosé, but its reds are starting to come on strong and it's emerging as an excellent, high quality, high value region.

Fast facts on Navarra:

  • Capital: Pamplona, home of the running of the bulls (Fiesta de San Fermin)! DO is south of the city
  • Vineyards are around the foothills of the Pyrenees to the Ebro River in Northern Spain
  • Navarra is part of the historic Basque country – but the Ebro River has the most impact on winemaking here (river valleys are essential to vine growing)

We review the storied history of Navarra:

  • From Romans to Moors to Catholics, we discuss the winemaking legacy
  • We talk about the importance of El Camino a Santiago de Compostela -- a 400 mile walk to visit the remains of St. James (Santiago) in Galicia on the western coast
    • 12th c – wine recommended in a guide book to pilgrims
    • Reputation for wine formed through El Camino
  • We discuss the French influence from the 14th century through the 19th c – (1892) when Navarra wines were in high demand post-phylloxera
  • We talk about the modern efforts of the DO, and EVENA, the Estación de Viticulture y Enología de Navarra (Navarra Viticulture and Oenological Research Station), in the Ribera Alta sub-region and how that added legitimacy AND created some issues for Navarra. 

 

We talk geography and terroir:

  • Navarra is large and the climate includes areas with Atlantic-influenced, continental, and Mediterranean climates
  • In the south-east is the Bardenas Reales National Park
  • The Pyrenees mountains in the northeast w/other mtns in north, just below France
  • Atlantic is an hour northwest, Ebro Valley in Southern Part Near Bay of Biscayne in Northwest/Atlantic Ocean

 

We discuss grapes and wines:

  • Navarra was known only for Garnacha-based rosados
  • EVENA allowed and encouraged French varieties in the 1980s to compete with Rioja (add diversity and it's own identity) — Chardonnay, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 90% red varieties, 10% white grape varieties
  • 70% of the grapes are native varietals
    • Tempranillo – 33%
    • Garnacha – 24%
    • Graciano – 1.5%
    • Mazuelo/Cariñena .5%
    • (WHITE) Viura – 2.25%
  • 30% of vineyards are planted to international varieties
    • Cabernet Sauvignon – 15%
    • Merlot – 14%
    • Chardonnay – 5.4%

 

The Sub regions 

Tierra Estella: Northwest, borders Basque Country and La Rioja. Highest average altitude and notable Atlantic influence. Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay.

Valdizarbe:  Northern area with continental and Atlantic climate. Tempranillo, Garnacha, Cabernet and Merlot all occupy similar surface areas, with Chardonnay and Malvasía.

Baja Montaña: In the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains. Continental climate. Garnacha, Tempranillo, with little else grown. Known for rosados.

Ribera Alta:
 Continental climate transitioning from Atlantic to Mediterranean climate.Cereal plantings here (fertile soils!). Tempranillo, Graciano, Chardonnay, Moscatel de Grano Menudo

 

Ribera Baja: Mediterranean climate. Tempranillo, Garnacha, Viura, Moscatel. 

 

Finally we hit on identity issues: Too much diversity

  • We decide that Garnacha expresses place and should be the horse they bet on in Navarra!
  • We mention the DO de Pago producers: Señorio de Arínzano and Prado Irache in Tierra Estella and Bodegas Otazu in Valdizarbe.

 

Go get some Navarra! It rocks!!