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Navarra - Running with the Bulls

October 2, 2013

Navarra is a Denominación de Origen (D.O.) that includes most of the southern region of the autonomous community (province) of the same name.  Navarra is located in northern Spain, close to the Pyrenees Mountains which form the border with France.   The capital city is Pamplona, world renown for the “running with the bulls”.  It looks more like running from the bulls, but if you drink enough Garnacha or Tempranillo (two of the region's fantastic red wines), maybe the beefy marathon sounds like a good idea.

The wines of Navarra

This is an ancient wine-producing region.  The earliest historical data on grape growing and wine production in Navarra dates from the 2nd century BC, when the ancient Romans first built wineries (bodegas).  Navarra has five sub regions within its borders - Tierra Estrella, Valdizarbe, Baja Montana, Ribera Alta and Ribera Baja.  A sixth sub region, Rioja Baja is within the province of Navarra but belongs to the D.O. of Rioja.  Navarra has over 28,000 acres of vineyards planted with 14 D.O. permitted grape varieties, but the most planted remain Tempranillo (34.5% of vineyard acreage) and Garnacha (22.8%).  

For many years, Navarra's vineyards were planted primarily with Garnacha

Pamplona
Pamplona
(the same grape as Grenache), and the wines produced from those red grapes were mostly fruity Rosés and some big, juicy reds.  Beginning in the 1970's, the Navarra DO winemakers began to diversify their plantings, adding Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Chardonnay to the stalwart vines of Garnacha and Tempranillo.  The result by the mid-1980's, Navarra was producing some really interesting new wines – Cabernet Sauvignon blended with Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon blended with Merlot and some really nice Chardonnays too. Today, the wines produced in the region include single variety and blends from virtually all of the 14 permitted grape varieties (Reds - Garnacha Tinta, Tempranillo, Graciano, Mazuelo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Shiraz, and Whites - Garnacha Blanca, Malvasia, Moscatel, Viura, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc).  With over 100 wineries producing wine, of which one third is bound for the United States, Navarra wines offer an affordable option to the better known regions of Rioja and Ribera del Duero.

Producers to look for: Bodegas Julián Chivite, Bodegas Ochoa, Bodegas Y Viñedos Nekeas, Bodegas Corellanas and Bodega de Sarría.

Growing grapes in Navarra

Navarra is situated between the towering Pyrenees Mountains to the north, and the Ebro River to the south.  The soils are well drained clay with limestone – perfect for grape growing. The south facing foothills of the Pyrenees provide a lengthy growing season while the altitude mitigates the heat of the summer.  The area is also windy - in fact, wind farms are a common site on the mesas above the vineyards.  Given its proximity to both the Atlantic and Mediterranean, the region can be subject to cooling influences travelling up the Ebro River during summer, and Atlantic storms that replenish moisture supplies during the cold Continental winters.

The region also abounds with tourism and a vast array of local museums, monasteries, national parks and plenty of local gastronomic delicacies to enjoy, all at a safe distance from the running of the bulls.

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