top of page

Let’s look at the many and fascinating influences on wine in Navarra and how they shape the liquid in our glass. First, the geographical ones. Navarra’s terroir is wide-ranging, with the northern sub-regions of Baja Montana, Tierra Estella and Valdizarbe much cooler than the southern ones of Ribera Baja and Ribera Alta. Ribera Alta has, to some degree, a Mediterranean influence, while westerly Tierra Estella is more in thrall to the Atlantic. There are notably high-altitude plots in the northerly sub-regions. In Tierra Estella and Valdizarbe, the higher vineyards are in danger of frost in the Spring, and the fresher style that comes with a cooler climate is clearly displayed in many of the wines made there. Then there’s the historical influence of the close proximity to France. In the second half of the last century, Navarra caused a stir for its widespread planting of international grape varieties alongside its mainstay, garnacha. Garnacha both produces single varietal wines and is a component with other red grapes for compelling blends from the region. Chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon and merlot all appeared, especially during the 1980s, and Navarra became renowned for its rapid evolution in the modern era, able to make fine single varietal as well as blended wines from these grapes, as well as pressing Spanish grapes such as tempranillo into service. French oak became the norm in Navarra, a point of difference with other Spanish regions, which traditionally used more American oak. French oak bestows a more spicy, peppery influence on wine, whereas American, with its looser grain, typically gives a sweeter vanilla and coconut character. Finally, there’s the strong influence of fashion of a new generation of winemakers, in particular crafting a distinctive style of unoaked, fully fruity, fresher garnachas. Bodegas Caudalia Umea Garnacha Rosado 2021 (13.5%, £11, Liquid Indulgence, Geoff Walker Wines) The vineyards which produce the fruit for this wine lie at 650m in the Baja Montana sub-region, and according to Ivan and Raquel who run Bodegas Caudalia, there is a ‘Pyrenean influence’ at work there. Certainly a cool-climate freshness shines through in the crisp cherry and strawberry flavours and lifted, whistle-clean finish. Castillo de Monjardin Chardonnay 2021 (13%, £9.50, Tanners) This time from Tierra Estella, with vineyards also planted at 650m, a delicious bright and fruit-driven chardonnay. This very fine, lively unoaked white with plenty of light pineapple and crystal-clear lemon is a great example of how well high altitude, cooler-climate chardonnay can do in the region. Tandem Inmune Garnacha 2021 (14.5%, £13.99, Great Wine, Shelved Wine, Strictly Wines) Established in 2003 by Alicia Eyaralar and José Maria Frail with their friends and relatives, Tandem, with its stunning modernist winery, has high altitude vineyards in the cool and windy Yerri Valley in Tierra Estella. With this wine they set out to show the purity of garnacha, so this has no oak and is wonderfully fruity and fresh with a juicy quality that only benefits from a light chill. La Casa de Lúculo Cátulo Tinto 2021 (13.5%, not available in the UK at present, though other wines from this bodega are with The Wine Society) An organic garnacha which again is designed to show the purist expression of the grape. Made from old vines (35 years plus) from Baja Montana and Ribera Alta, unoaked and with glorious mulberry and black cherry fruit, and a brisk, spicy and lifted finish. Another contender for a light chill. Owner Eugenie van Ekeris describes garnacha as ‘the hidden gem from Navarra’. Otazu Premium Cuvée 2019 (14%, £9.35, Buckingham Schenk) From the fabulous historic bodega of Otazu, only 8 km from Pamplona, a blend of 35% cabernet sauvignon, 33% merlot and 32% tempranillo, aged in French oak barrels or 12 months. Intense cassis and redcurrant are laced with sweet spices and there’s a rich layer of mocha. A fine example of a Navarra blend of international grape varieties with Spain’s


bottom of page