By Ellen Bhang
The wine region of Navarra in northern Spain is often said to be in the shadow of its more famous neighbor, Rioja. Navarra’s winemakers are eager to update that notion, and are letting their diverse pours speak for themselves.
Navarra, located northeast of Rioja across the Ebro River, has long been known for its pink wines, garnacha-based rosados. Hoping to compete with Rioja and make inroads in world markets, the DO (denominacion de origen) made a concerted push in the 1980s to blend indigenous tempranillo with international varietals like cabernet sauvignon and merlot. While some of these modern blends garner the attention of critics, consumers have a less-than-focused impression of the place and its potential.
In the last few years, Navarra’s regulating body has worked to sharpen the DO’s image. A revamped website aimed at US wine enthusiasts, navarrawine.us, has done away with comparisons to Rioja. Instead of pushing one flagship grape or style, diversity is heralded as its strength. The region’s geographic subzones — a cooler north, a more continental center, and a Mediterranean-like south —