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Navarra, Not Just About Bulls!

Navarra is one of seventeen autonomous regions in Spain located in the north-central end of the country, southwest of the Pyrenees and adjacent to France. 

Navarra’s capital, Pamplona, is world-famous for the Running of The Bulls. Ernest Hemingway’s passion for watching bullfights and his curiosity about the Running of The Bulls brought him to visit Pamplona several times.

Ernest Hemingway in Pamplona. Photo courtesy of Ernest Hemingway Collection

After experiencing The Running of The Bulls on his trip in 1925, he began writing the novel, “The Sun Also Rises” based on real people and events that took place on that particular visit. The book was published in 1926.

Navarra is not just about bulls, however. It is steeped in history, has at least fifty natural preserves, offers quality cuisine and is a D.O. (Denominación de Origen or Designation of Origin) wine region.

The Navarra D.O. was created in 1933 and there are approximately 11,500 hectares of vineyards that occupy about half the area of the municipal region. Although Navarra is a small region there are three climates. The Atlantic climate is cool and humid, Continental climate is transitional with extreme winters and summers and the Mediterranean climate is semi-arid with moderate winters and hot summers.

Due to Navarra’s diverse topography and climate, five distinct winemaking subzones were established within the D.O: Ribera Baja, Ribera Alta, Tierra Estella, Valdizarbe and Baja Montaña. A wide range of soils can be found in each subzone, adding to the characteristics and expression of the wines produced.

The principal grape varieties found in Navarra are Chardonnay, Garnacha Blanca, Malvasia, Moscatel de grano menudo, Sauvignon Blanc, Viura, Cabernet Sauvignon, Garnacha Tinta, Graciano, Merlot, Mazuelo, Pinot Noir, Syrah and Tempranillo.

Wines of Navarra recently sent me two samples from the subzones of Ribera Alta and Valdizarbe.

Bodega Inurrieta is a family-owned winery located in Falces, about 45 minutes south of Pamplona and is in the Ribera Alta subzone. “Inurrieta” in Spanish means “area of ants” and is a tribute to the current owners of the winery, the family Antoñana.  The winery was founded in 1999.

The climate in Ribera Alta is Mediterranean-Continental with very little rainfall, cold winters and hot summers. Bodega Inurrieta has 230 hectares of vineyards planted on three elevations, each with a different soil makeup. Sand and silt are on the first level, a significant amount of clay on the second level and fragmented limestone bed on the third level. They grow six different grape varieties, one of which is Sauvignon Blanc.

Inurrieta Orchídea 2018 is 100% Sauvignon Blanc. The color is pale lemon with inviting floral aromas mixed with citrus, pear and pineapple. The palate offers pear, grapefruit, honeysuckle and a touch of lemon zest on the finish. It has a beautiful balance of mouthwatering acidity and a creamy mouthfeel due to four months of tank aging on fine lees. It’s very refreshing and the value is amazing!

Alcohol:  13%
SRP:  $12

Bodegas Nekeas, once a cooperative in the valley, (The Valley of Nekeas) is now a privately owned winery located in Añorbe, a municipality in the subzone of Valdizarbe. It’s origins date back to the 15th century but it was brought back to life in the 1960s. All eight founding families remain in control today.

Valdizarbe is at the northern boundary of D.O. Navarra’s vineyards. The subzone climate is humid and lush with greenery and vegetation. The soil type in the vineyards is dependent upon the elevation. Bodegas Nekeas has 560 acres of planted vines where they grow both indigenous and international grape varieties.

Bodegas Nekeas El Chaparral de Vega Sindoa 2016 is 100% Garnacha. El Chaparral is named after a small Spanish oak tree called Chaparro that surrounds the area where the vineyards are found. The grapes for this wine were hand harvested from vines between 85 and 110 years old that are situated in the Valley of Valdizarbe at an altitude of 1,800 – 2,000 ft. It is believed that these Garnacha plots are the most northern in Spain and the closest to the Atlantic Ocean. The climate here is Continental with both Mediterranean and Atlantic influences. The wine was aged for five months in new and used French oak.

The color of the wine is dark ruby bordering on garnet. Aromas of raspberry, sweet flowers and spice segue onto the palate with red plum, baking spice, vanilla and a touch of pepper on a long finish. The wine is perfectly balanced and is rich and smooth with a playful mouthfeel.
Alcohol:  15%
SRP:  $15

Both wines are light and easy to drink and will pair well with an array of food from fish to meat. I’m looking forward to tasting more wines from the other subzones of Navarra.  So much to explore! 

Until next time…



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