Navarre Wines: a new generation from the old kingdom

by Deborah Cater
Navarre wines - vineyards at sunset
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As early as the 12th century, pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago praised the rosé Navarre wines made by monks from the Garnacha grape. Now the wines from this versatile area under the Spanish Pyrenees find their way beyond the border.

After China and Germany, the United Kingdom is the most important export market of Navarre wines with 16,375hl in 2019. Until the arrival of wine research institute EVENA, the focus was mainly on rosé. Red wine is now the most important product thanks to the craftsmanship of winegrowing pioneers.

Navarre wine region

DO. Navarre is the oldest wine region in Spain at 78 years old. The “Denominación de Origen de Navarra” label is intended for wines from the five wine regions located in the province of Navarra: Tierra Estella, Valdizarbe, Baja Montaña, Ribera Alta and Ribera Baja. Do not confuse the province of Navarre with the state of Navarre, which consists of the provinces of Soria, La Rioja and Navarra.

Navarre wines in winter

Navarra’s red and rosé wines are mainly made from the Garnacha and Tempranillo grapes. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah are also recognised grapes for the red wine. White wine is primarily based on the Chardonnay grape, Garnacha Blanca and Malvasia.

Research institute EVENA

The bodegas of D.O. Navarre owe a lot to the vinological research institute EVENA. This plays a stimulating role for winegrowers and producers from the region, all over Spain and beyond. It is known as the most progressive and best equipped oenological institute in Europe. Thanks to EVENA, wine producers are conducting daring experiments with grape blends, fermentation technologies and cellar techniques.

Winegrowers from a total of 114 municipalities who grow grapes on 15,000 hectares fall under D.O. Navarre. Remarkably, current viticulture covers only a third of the surface area it used to. The grape diseases oïdium and phyloxera wreaked havoc at the end of the 19th century.

Characteristics of Navarre wines

Because the province of Navarre has great geological and climatological differences, the wine from the five regions is also very diverse. Navarre is the only wine region in Spain that is subject to three spheres of influence: the Atlantic, the Mediterranean and the continental climate.

Navarre wines enotourism zonesIn the north, against the foothills of the Pyrenees, are the three sub-areas: Tierra Estella, Valdizarbe and Baja Montaña. The soil here mainly consists of loam with gravel on a lime substrate. The autochthonous grape variety Garnacha forms the main part here. However, especially on the higher areas, the vintners are planting more and more grape varieties.

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Concentrated around the town of Estella is the sub-area Tierra Estella. Valdizarbe has Puente la Reina as its most important place and is also an important point on the pilgrimage route. Here the route from Roncesvalles meets the one from Aragón. Baja Montaña has little fertile soil, but vines grow where possible.

In the more southern Ribera Alta and Ribera Baja, the average temperature is much higher than in the north of Navarre. The soil is also different thanks to its location in and near the valley of the Ebro River. With Tudela as the capital, Ribera Baja is the most southerly wine region of Navarre, located on the sandy soils of the Ebro Valley between La Rioja and Aragón.

Enotourism

The region has many testimonies of the Roman presence and the later Arab and Christian rule. These include monasteries, chapels, castles and mosques. Every village or town has its own unique monument. This makes a visit to wine country Navarre very interesting in other respects.

The city of Pamplona is a pearl in itself and is also called “green city” because a quarter of its surface consists of green zones. Beyond that, the city’s San Fermin summer festivals are notable. Every year in August, thousands of daredevils (also many tourists) run through the narrow alleys in the old centre before a herd of bulls. Their aim not to end up on the bulls’ horns.

Bardenas Reales biosphere

 

The Bardenas Reales biosphere reserve is spectacular. This is a semi-desert with dry river beds, deep ravines and bizarrely shaped rocks. The barren and inhospitable looking landscape offers a lot of rare flora and fauna. It is a UNESCO biosphere reserve.

 

Wine Route

The “ruta del vino de Navarra” takes you past all the main bodegas, with a choice between old family-owned vineyards or ultra-modern giants. 

Ruta del vino navarre map

Visit them on foot, by bicycle or even on horseback. In wine cellars, discover how the wine process works, spend the night between the vineyards or take a wine tasting course. Olite, Puente la Reina, Obanos and Tafalla are some of the 25 towns along the route.

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