History of wine in Navarra (Navarre)
Navarra is a beautiful Spanish region and one with fascinating history. Once a powerful kingdom between old France and Castilla, Navarra is today mostly known worldwide thanks to San Fermin. San Fermin, a summer Fiesta that takes place in Pamplona in July. San Fermin is a colorful celebration. Men dressed-up in white and red run the streets followed by bulls. There is more than bulls in San Fermin, with lots of party going on. Wine is no doubt part of it all.
Wine has always (or nearly always) been there in Navarre. The romans were here and as almost everywhere else the romans were, wine was part of their lives. There is archeological evidence of winemaking back to those days. Navarra gained a reputation with its wines thanks to Saint James Way. El Camino, on its French route, has left a legacy that is still today alive. At its origin, monks passing and providing service to the pilgrims left an important viticulture legacy. Garnache was the most important grape in Navarre. All those making the Camino may have seen or heard about the fountain of wine not far from Pamplona. The pilgrim can drink wine, but cannot store it for his future deeds…
Anoher influencing factor to the development of viticulture in Navarre has to do with its proximity to France. When the American mite philloxera hit France, local French producers were forced to look down south to find the grapes they needed. And many more vines than those just planted were planted in the light of an overwhelming demand coming from the north.
Navarre´s wine landscape has been for many years occupied by very refreshing rosé wines. These wines have been for decades a safe bet for anyone trying to find a great rosé at inexpensive prices. But Navarra has evolved a lot and today the range of red and white wines to be found in the local wineries is surprising.
Tempranillo, along with Garnacha, dominates in today´s vineyards. These wines are for many Spaniards a sure bet if they want to find similar quality at less price than Rioja. But Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are also to be found in Navarra today.
As for the whites, Chardonnay from Navarra has become also a very wise choice. In some cases the results are very impressive, mainly when you have a look at the price label and find yourself in front of fantastic, yet inexpensive wines.
Sweet desserts are part of Navarra´s offer also today. They are made from Mocatel grape and the local producers have managed to find a right balance between sweetness and acidity.
We can claim that today Navarra has managed to remove part of that stigma any wine region has when it neighbours a world wine giant (like Rioja in this case)