Spain has become quite a trendy option for wine in recent years. The wines of the Rioja region and the Priorat have been the superstars of Spain, producing some of the most well known and respected wines that the country has to offer. I recently had the opportunity to try some wines from another region of Spain, The Kingdom of Navarra, and I thought it would be fun to learn a little more about this less known region of Spain.
The Kingdom of Navarra is probably most well known for a couple of things that don’t have anything to do with wine. Earnest Hemingway became fascinated with the region, using it as the setting for his novels The Sun Also Rises, and For Whom the Bell Tolls. The first of these novels featured an event that the area is probably most well known for, “The Running of the Bulls” in Pamplona, the capital of Navarra. The area is rich in culture and history, making it a European destination for visitors from around the world.
The Kingdom of Navarra has been in the wine making business for a LONG time. Vineyards have existed in the region as far back as the Roman occupation of Spain, and possibly even earlier. The region lies between Rioja and the French border. The location of the region has lead to its wines being influenced by both Bordeaux and the Spanish Rioja region. Until recently Garnacha was the predominant variety produced in the region, with 90% of the production being devoted to this variety in the 1980′s. Garnacha has long been used in Navarra Rosado (Rosé) wines. In recent years, Tempranillo has taken over the honors as the most planted grape in the Navarra region, with almost 38% of the plantings in the region. As well as these Spanish staples, there are also significant plantings in the Bordeaux varieties Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
Although Navarra is producing large quantities of the grapes that Spain has become most well known for, the proximity to Bordeaux seems to have added some unique elements to the production of the region. Over 30% of the plantings in the region are dedicated to Bordeaux varieties. The Navarra D.O. (Denominacion de Origen) is made up of 5 unique regions, each of which have unique climates and soils. The Baja Montana, Tierra Estella, Valdizarbe, Ribera Alta, and Ribera Baja all bring something different to the region’s wine production.
I received industry samples of three different wines from the region, and I will be posting my notes on the wines tomorrow. Spain has been one of the best values in European wine recently, and the three wines that I tasted are no exception, with each wine likely (I couldn’t find the pricing on the Bodegas San Martin Navarra Alma de Unx Old Vine Garnacha) coming in under $20 retail. I will say right now that I would recommend checking out wines from the Navarra region if you haven’t already. The wines offer some great quality at the price point, and it’s always fun to try out some juice from a region that you aren’t as familiar with.