Navarra is a DO (Denominación de Origen) located in the autonomía of the same name. Navarra is situated to the northeast of La Rioja, and the Pyrenees Mountains run along its northern border.
Navarra has traditions dating back as long as Rioja’s, and their histories are intertwined. Both DOs are located along the famous pilgrimage route Santiago del Compostela. And like Rioja, Navarra’s wines gained prominence in the Middle Ages due to clerical support. The rosados (rosés) of the region achieved recognition by the 15th century. In the 1850s, Navarra benefited from increased sales when phylloxera decimated French vineyards, until Spain’s vineyards fell prey 40 years later.
Navarra received its DO classification in 1933, and today only continues to improve as a wine region. There has been a great influx of modernization and expertise thanks to the establishment of EVENA, the local oenological research institute. There has also been new attention given to identifying and demarcating the many and varied terroirs, from the cooler foothills of the Pyrenees to the warmer, alluvial regions of the south.
In terms of culture, Navarra is perhaps best known for Pamplona’s Running of the Bulls, which occurs annually during the San Fermin Festival. Ernest Hemingway memorably described this event in his novel The Sun Also Rises.
Traditional Navarran cuisine includes chorizo, lamb chops, fried lamb, stuffed peppers and trout.
For purposes of wine production, Navarra can be divided into five subzones: the higher-altitude and northernmost Valdizarbe, Baja Montaña and Tierra Estella to the east and west, Ribera Alta in the center, and Ribera Baja in the hot south. As a testament to the rising quality of Navarra’s red wines, three estates recently received their own DO de Pago appellations: Señorio de Arínzano and Prado Irache in Tierra Estella and Bodegas Otazu in Valdizarbe.
Navarra’s soil is mainly chalky with gravel under soft, fertile topsoil, except in Ribera Baja where it declines into sand. In general, the climate is Continental, meaning long, hot, dry summers and cold winters.
The primary grapes in Navarra are Tempranillo and Garnacha, the latter of which makes delicious rosados. While rosados have historically been the biggest local draw, red wine now accounts for approximately 60% of production, with rosado wines representing only a quarter. Viura is the most prominent white variety, with white grapes accounting for about 6% of vineyard acreage. French grapes are also popular (understandably, considering the proximity of Navarra’s northern neighbor), including Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir.