Navarra – A Wine Region of Diversity

Feb 24, 14 Navarra – A Wine Region of Diversity

When one thinks of Spanish wines, Rioja immediately springs to mind but that’s not the only game in town. I visited the region of Navarra which is just north of Rioja last Autumn and found a diverse and exciting wine region. A region that is producing great value for money wines.

Navarra has been producing wines for centuries but after they were wiped out by phylloxera in the late 19th century, they never regained their former glory. Even today, there are only 12,000 hectares under vine whereas pre-phylloxera they had 50,000 vines.

Spanish vineyards

Nowadays, if people are familiar with Navarra’s wines, it is with their lovely and spicy rosados. Made from tempranillo and garnacha, the rosados can range from delicate with ripe red fruit flavours to robust and spicy. Unlike Rioja, Navarra doesn’t specialize in one particular grape. While some might see this as a negative, it does allow the growers of the region to produce a variety of wines.

Navarran rosados

Navarran rosados

The reds of Navarra are made from widely grown varieties in Spain – tempranillo, graciano and mazuela as well as international varieties such as cabernet sauvignon and even merlot.

barrel room at Bodegas Inurietta

barrel room at Bodegas Inurrieta

a 'harvested' grasshopper

a ‘harvested’ grasshopper

We visited quite a few bodegas on our trip, here are some highlights, except for Bodegas Ochoa which I’ve written about separately here.

Bodegas Inurrietta rosado

Bodegas Inurrietta rosado

Bodegas Inurrieta, located in the Ribera Alta, the winery has its vineyards at 380 to 400 metres and they produce fresh and exciting wines. The wines are made in a modern, approachable style and are of an excellent quality.

Bodegas Senoria de Serria

Bodegas Senorio de Sarria

old vines

old vines at Senorio de Sarria

Bodegas Senorio de Sarria is in the Valdizabe region and set amongst rolling hills. I first came across their wines a few years ago here in London and ever since I’ve kept a lookout for them. The winery is a blend of modern and new, with the old cement tanks as part of the decor.

old cement tanks, Senoria de Soria

old cement tanks, Senorio de Sarria, very Art Deco-ish

graciano and mazuelo

graciano and mazuelo

There is a beautiful small chapel next to the winery which was built exclusively for the family and has a wonderful series of mosaics covering its walls. I liked their blends but the two standouts were the Graciano and Mazuelo wines. 100% of the each, these wines definitely had character and personality to them. I especially enjoyed the graciano. It’s not usually made on its own but this wine was complex, spicy and distinctive.

mosaic in the Senoria de Sarria chapel

mosaic in the Senorio de Sarria chapel

We also visited the up and coming Nekeas Valley, situated in the Valdizabe region, it was historically an important producer but the region fell into neglect for almost 100 years before it was revitalized in 1989. Nekeas grow tempranillo as well as the international varieties cabernet sauvignon and merlot.

Nekeas Valley wines

Nekeas Valley wines

Their exuberant and passionate winemaker, Concha Vecino lives on a house overlooking the vines and is most dedicated to them. As she said, it’s ‘her valley’ to watch over.  We tasted through their range while we were there. I really liked the 2010 Nekeas crianza temprinillo/cabernet sauvignon blend.  A fresh and balanced wine with hints of herbs and lavender. In general, all the wines were very well made and I do hope we see more of them in the UK.

Concha Vecino, winemaker of Nekeas

Concha Vecino, winemaker of Nekeas

After all that traipsing around vineyards, it was a bit of a relief to get back to our base, Pamplona. We spent most evenings wandering around the centre of town, visiting the Plaza del Castillo, having a beer and watching the world pass by.

Pamplona

Pamplona

watching the world go by in the Plaza

watching the world go by in the Plaza del Castillo

As in many Spanish cities, Pamplona has a a few streets devoted to tapas bars. All of them seemingly festooned with legs of ham hanging from the ceilings. We certainly did not want for sustenance while we were in Pamplona.

tapas bar, Pamplona

tapas bar, Pamplona

stopping for a tapa or two

Andrew and Quentin waiting for tapas

Pamplona

Pamplona

more ham, please!

more ham, please!

All in all a great visit and very educational. I’ve always enjoyed the rosados of Navarra but after having visited and met such a diverse group of winemakers, I’ll definitely give Navarran wines another look.

Navarran sunset

Navarran sunset

 

 

 

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