Most of us are familiar with the famous Running of the Bulls festival held every year in Pamplona, the capital of the region of Navarra in Spain. Thousands of brave revelers race through the town’s winding streets in front of a few toro bravo that have been let loose from their pens. These human risk takers attempt to run to safety before being gored or trampled by the bulls (or other valiant participants). I’ve never witnessed this event and most likely never will, although I’ve heard that the post-run celebration is quite the event. Apparently, wines from Navarra are poured and millions of locals and tourists, dressed in the traditional garb of white, a red hanky, and red sash, are merrily tippling. Now that’s a party I’d love to attend!
I’ve tasted wines from Rioja, Catalunya, Murcia, Galicia, and other regions in Spain thanks to aggressive marketing efforts. But recently, I received six wines from Navarra, a wine region with which I was unfamiliar. In the safety of my home, I waved my own red hanky and cheered. And the only dash I made was to pour another taste of these palate-pleasing, budget-friendly wines. Perhaps you could call it my personal Running for the Wine…
The Wine Region of Navarra
The Navarra region is nestled into the Pyrenees of north-central Spain, just south of France. With an area smaller than the state of Connecticut, Navarra boasts three major climate types (semi-arid Mediterranean, transitional Continental, and sub-humid Atlantic) and a landscape that consists of semi-desert basin, dense woodland hills, and towering mountains. The diverse wine growing region occupies about half of the area and is approximately 34,000 acres. Its five distinct winemaking subzones (Ribera Baja, Ribera Alta, Tierra Estella, Valdizarbe, and Baja Montaña) are defined by a variety of ecosystems and growing situations such as slopes, streams, plateaus, plains, and more. Soils in the hills of Tierra Estella are high in limestone and can be rocky. In Valdizarbe, they are of chalk, and in Ribera Baja and Ribera Alta, soils are sandy and nutrient poor.