Navarra Wine

Navarra, in northern Spain, is one of the country’s 17 first-level administrative regions (Comunidades autónomas) and a reasonably prolific – if lesser-known – wine region. Traditionally associated with the production of crisp, fruit-driven rosé, Navarra is beginning to attract attention for its high-quality red wines made mainly from the TempranilloCabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot grape varieties after years of being overshadowed by its southern neighbor, Rioja.

The first records of winemaking in the region date back to ancient Roman times, but grapes were almost certainly thriving here long before that. Vines of the prehistoric Vitis sylvestris species – predecessor of the cherished Vitis vinifera – have recently been discovered still growing in Navarra. After the Romans, grape-growing continued under the Moors and was then greatly expanded under Christian rule. Demand for wine was strengthened by Catholics making the pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago to the shrine (now a cathedral) in Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, where tradition has it that the remains of the Apostle St. James are buried.

The 14th Century was a boom time for Navarra and the number of vineyards multiplied to the extent that restrictions had to be imposed to ensure enough land was dedicated to cereals to feed the local population. Demand received an additional boost in the late 19th Century when France was hit by phylloxera. This rise in sales was short-lived, however, as Navarra subsequently fell prey to the blight, which left few vineyards intact there. Vignerons replanted using phylloxera-resistant rootstocks and subsequently were able to reorganize production zones.

Navarra has just a single DO title for its wines, the regional Navarra DO, which was created in 1933 and covers the entire southern half of the region (almost everything south of the administrative capital, Pamplona). Its workings are administered by its Consejo Regulador(wine authority), based in the small town of Olite.

 

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