Navarra may not have the name recognition of their winemaking hermanos in Rioja, but the region produces an abundance of wonderful vino. Located in the north of Spain, the vineyards of Navarra span the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains to the Ebro River Basin and the Bardenas Reales Desert. This diversity of terroir and micro-climates makes Navarra naturally suited to produce a wide variety of wine styles - from refreshing whites & rosés to complex & bold reds.
image courtesy of Wines of Navarra. image by Jesús Chasco
I was recently invited to learn more about the wines of Navarra at a fantastic seminar led by enthusiastic experts April Cullom and Robin Kelley O'Connor. April said that "Spain is about food, wine, and fun" and Navarra certainly embodies this attitude. Known as the garden of Spain because of its exquisite produce and cheeses, Navarra has a rich culinary tradition and the wines are absolutely food-friendly. A cultural treasure, Navarra has inspired countless artists and authors like Ernest Hemingway (The Sun Also Rises). Right outside Navarra's capital city of Pamplona (yes, THAT Pamplona where the legendary running of the bulls takes place), lie the vineyards along the iconic medieval pilgrimage route Camino de Santiago. In fact, during the late Middle Ages, Navarra's wines were praised by those making the pilgrimage. And today Navarra offers quality wines at amazingly affordable prices. Are you ready to explore the wines of Navarra?
Vega Sindoa Chardonnay 2015 ($9) is a great introduction to the Navarra style. The region's historical ties to France led to an early introduction of French varietals so Chardonnay is quite prevalent. Quite aromatic, this dry and refreshing white wine has lively flavors of citrus, apple, and pineapple. Zippy acidity make this unoaked vino a great aperitivo and a lovely match with light salads and seafood.
Of course, no discussion of Spanish wines is complete without discussing the most famous red - Tempranillo. Vega Sindoa Tempranillo 2015 ($9) is fresh but surprisingly nuanced for a wine that is so young and affordable. Flavors of bright cherry are revved up by hints of plum and licorice. Vega Sindoa wines are produced by Bodegas Nekeas. Located in the valley of Valdizarbe, the northernmost wine-growing district of Navarra, their vineyards are influenced by the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. It is considered one of Spain's finest areas for the production of wine & olive oil.
Vega del Castillo Capa Roja Tempranillo 2013 ($10) offers a different expression of Tempranillo - earthy with fruity flavors of cherry and tomato that are perked up with a hint of anis. The roots of Bodegas Vega del Castillo can be traced back to 1910 as Spain's first cooperative winery. Their vineyards are located in different sites of Navarra's Lower Mountain and Upper River regions, which allows them to produce a variety of wine styles.
A robust and juicy red, Vega del Castillo Garnacha Cepas Viejas 2014 ($8) is a lovely expression of Garnacha. Produced from their oldest vines, many over 60 years old, the wine is full yet soft with flavors of ripe dark fruit and hints of peppery spice. An incredibly balanced and nuanced wine for such an affordable price. A delicious match with pasta, a burger, roast chicken, or chorizo.
Whatever your preference, chances are that Navarra produces a wine that you'll enjoy! To learn more about Navarra and its winemakers, visit the Wines of Navarra website. Cheers!