From the high Pyrenean Mountains to the low plain lands
In between the Pyrenees and the Ebro Valley, the Spanish region of Navarra is full of unique places for you to discover. Architectural and natural beauties, festivals, and pilgrim routes, all come together with genuine food that tells about the region’s traditions. What you might not know is that Navarra is a great wine region, which only waits for visitors to come ad taste.
Navarra wine region is located in the north of Spain, at the western end of the Pyrenees. It borders France to the north, the Basque Country to the west and Aragón to the east. Navarra wine region is a land of diversity, with landscapes high into the Pyrenean Mountains gradually descending onto the fertile ‘La Ribera’ Plains. The region presents a rather unique geographic centrality at the confluence of Atlantic, Continental, and Mediterranean climatic influences.
The Navarra region is mainly famous for the San Fermin festival of running bulls, which takes places every year in Pamplona, the capital city of Navarra; it attracts many tourists from within Spain as well as from all over the world. The northern Spanish region is also crossed by the Camino de Santiago, and many pilgrims stop in Navarrean cities to rest in between stages.
Learn more about the Navarra wine region. Through this guide, you can explore:
The Navarra wine region offers a selection of red, white, and rosé wines in a multiplicity of styles. It is the result of diverse and versatile “terroir”. The vineyards of the Navarra wine region stretch across verdant foothills fed by Atlantic rains. The regions’ winemaking history can be traced as far back as Roman times. However, it had always been overshadowed by the wines from the neighbouring Rioja region. In recent years, Navarra is gaining more recognition as a wine region.
Navarra’s dramatic topographical and climatic variation, explains the region’s complex mosaic of soils and microclimates. Primarily known for its Garnacha-based rosé wines (rosados), producers of Navarra began to use French varieties in the 1980s. Grape varieties such as Chardonnay, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon found perfect terroir-varietal suitability In here. This brought the Navarra wine region into a new phase of its evolution as a producer of fine wine.
Navarra wine region has gained attention for high-quality red wines produced from Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot. However, Garnacha is also famous for producing exceptional Rosé wines. As for white grapes, the small number of white wines produced in Navarra are based on Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Garnacha Blanca, and Viura. You will also find sweet wines produced from Moscatel as well.
Ancient Roots of the Navarra Wine Region
Vines of the prehistoric Vitis sylvestris species – the predecessor of the cherished Vitis vinifera – have recently been discovered in the Navarra wine region, as they are still growing. After the Romans, grape-growing continued under the Moors and was successively expanded under the Christian rule. Demand for wine was strengthened by Catholics pilgrims who were following the Camino de Santiago from France to Santiago de Compostela.
What is Navarra Wine Like?
Traditionally, Navarra has been associated with crispy, fruit-driven, and dry rosé wines, that are a good accompaniment to the earthy local cuisine. Today, Navarra is both innovative and respectful of tradition. Its evolution and unique place in the world translates into a stunning multiplicity of styles on offer to the consumer which include crisp, mineral-driven, and rich aromatic whites. Other treasures from Navarra include red berry-laced Rosados, earthy, aromatic reds, structured spicy reds, and lively golden-hued dessert wines
Recently, Tempranillo-based red wines, produced in a small section of the Navarra wine region, have gained more recognition. Tempranillo wines from Navarra display cherry red colour, minerality, and aromas of cherries and strawberries. In addition to Tempranillo wine and Garnacha, highly regarded wines of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Pinot Noir are produced.
Navarra’s small quantity of white wines are mainly based on Chardonnay, Viura, and Garnacha Blanca. They also produce natural sweet wines from Moscatel. Investment in modern winemaking equipment and the introduction of non-native grape varieties have given rise to a greater number of new wine styles from the region. A group of brave and innovative winemakers have done much to raise the profile of Navarra.
Where to Taste Navarra Wines
In Navarra wine region you will find several wineries producing excellent quality of wines and are open for visitors to share their story and passion for winemaking.
Located 8km from Pamplona, Bodega Otazu is not just an average winery as it is based on a historical land estate. The land around the estate was already used to grow grapes for the production of wine in the 15th century. The new wine cellar is also known as “The Wine Cathedral”, because of its architectural grandeur.
This family-run winery, Pago de Larrainzar is 150 years old and it is located near the Irache Monastery, where many pilgrims going to Santiago de Compostela pass through as it is between Pamplona and Logroño. The Larrainzar family stopped producing wine for a while but decided to reopen their winery in 2006 in a new modern building.
Family-run, organic and sustainable, the Bodegas Fernandez de Arcaya produces a very limited variety of wine but of very high quality. The winery is also on the Camino de Santiago route, more precisely south of the town of Estella. The wine production and vineyard cultivation began in the year 1900.
Pamplona, alongside places such as Burgos and León, are among the top cities along the trail of the Camino de Santiago; many travellers and pilgrims visit the city every year from all over the world.
Pamplona is the capital city of Navarra. Medieval city walls surround Pamplona’s old town, where you can explore the old citadel and the Vuelta del Castillo Park. Other historic attractions include La Catedral de Santa María la Real de Pamplona and the Church of Saint Lawrence. Saint Lawrence was originally built as a church-fortress in the 14th century.
Pamplona is world-wide famous because of the San Fermin Festival, also known as “The Running of the Bulls Festival” which is one of Spain’s biggest and craziest events. During the festival week, participants run through the city streets alongside fighting bulls. Traditional music and street food stands with local food are also present at the festival.
With close proximity to the Basque Country, Pamplona was much influenced by the region; a lot of this influence can be seen in its excellent cuisine. Besides its delicious pintxos bars, restaurants in Pamplona serve up a range of traditional and modern fusion dishes, the city can be considered a great destination for foodies.
Visit Bodegas Ochoa, while in Pamplona
The Ochoa family owns and runs this winery south of Pamplona that covers 145 hectares. Since 2015, the wine is totally organic and the yeast used to ferment the grapes comes from the family’s vineyard. Many wine typologies are made and each section of the vineyard is dedicated to a specific typology of grape.
As it passes through Navarra, the Pilgrim’s Route to Santiago de Compostela leads to Estella. This medieval old town is a testimony to its historic splendour. Its position on the Pilgrim’s Route and also as the site of the royal court, contributed to its economic prosperity throughout the entire Middle Ages.
The Plaza de los Fueros is the actual centre of the city, the place where you will find the traditional market and the Neoclassic façade of the church of San Juan stands. The square and the surrounding streets house the medieval market, where all the stallholders dress in period costume and offer their wares as in years gone by.
When visiting Estella, it is worth stopping at the Palace of the Kings of Navarre, named after the Dukes of Granada de Ega. It is a delightful example of Romanesque civil architecture and the only one left standing in the entire Navarra region. Outside of the palace, two capitals decorate the façade and tell the legend of Roland, who battled against the giant Farragut.
Major examples of Estella’s Gothic architecture are the church of Santo Sepulcro and the Convent of Santo Domingo. The historic quarter, on both sides of the Ega River, can be crossed by the Prison Bridge, and also contains Renaissance palaces such as San Cristóbal and baroque constructions like the Courthouse.
Elizondo – the Heart of the Batzan Valley
Elizondo is the capital of the northern Batzan Valley which includes 15 villages spreading over green hills of the Atlantic Pyrenees. The centre of Elizondo stands on both banks of the Batzan River and contains many noble buildings and mansions. The most famou places to visit is the palace of Arizkunenea, a great example of baroque architecture. Don’t miss either the City Hall, as well as the beautiful neighbourhood of Beartzu.
Fortress towers are the most common structures in the valley. They were useful during the many border conflicts in the Middle Ages. Indeed, in the village of Irurita there are lots of turreted ancestral homes and medieval towers, such as Dorrea or Jauregizuria. Again, in Elbete there are the 17th-century baroque palaces of Jarola and Azkoa, while in Arizkun stands the tower of Ursua.
If you are a sweet-toothed foodie, a speciality to try in Elizondo is the “urrakin egina”. It is a whole chocolate bar with milk and almonds. The best place to taste the original version is the Malkorra Pastry Shop.
Biodiversity in Navarra is a result of the region’s peculiar geographical location, where three biogeographic areas –the Alpine, the Atlantic, and the Mediterranean– come together. It also has to do with the fact that the region is not as densely populated as the rest of Spain.
Navarra features a rich mosaic of landscapes, where countless animal and plant species live. Two of the main characteristics of Navarra’s natural heritage are forest conservation and the abundance of water resources.
Bardenas Reales – Where a Picture is Worth a Thousand Words
To witness a unique natural setting, travel just one hour from Pamplona to the Bardenas Reales, a lunar landscape in Navarra. Over 40,000 hectares of Biosphere Reserve, protected by UNESCO, formed as a result of millions of years of rain and wind eroding the clay, chalk, and sandstone terrain.
There is something almost mysterious about the ravines and dry riverbeds, and the oasis which appears next to occasional bodies of water. Also, the Reserve is famous for being the location for the filming of the famous series Game of Thrones.
Selva de Irati – A True Mystic Forest
The Irati Forest is the second-largest and best-preserved beech and fir tree forest in Europe. An immense green area of 17,000 hectares is still in an almost unspoiled state.
Located among the western Pyrenees of Navarra, you can access the forest from two points: from the west from Orbaizeta and from the east from Ochagavía, where you can also find an Interpretation Centre. This area is a natural treasure in which you can find the protected areas of Mendilatz and Tristuibartea and the Lizardoia Integral Reserve.
A network of signposted paths of different degrees of difficulty and length are visible throughout the forest, with natural spectacles on display at any point throughout the year. Choose your form of transport and visit the Irati Forest on foot, by bicycle, or with snowshoes or skis.
Cuevas de Urdazubi/Urdax – Magical Caves Leading into a Magical World
The small Pyrenean village of Urdazubi/Urdax hides a series of attractions. Mediaeval bridges, majestic country houses, ancient constructions such as the Romanesque church of San Salvador and prehistoric caves are among the many intriguing sites to visit.
Ikaburu, the only open cave, is located below the green meadows of the slopes of northwestern Navarra, a few kilometres from the coast and the French border. The cave is a grotto that originated some 14,000 years ago as a result of the erosion of the Urtxuma River that runs through it.
A guided tour through its galleries is the only way to visit and can open up a universe of stalactites and stalagmites. The entrance to the Caves of Ikaburu lies a few kilometres from the Bay of Biscay and just a few minutes from the French border at Dantxarinea, in the district of Leorlas de Urdazubi/Urdax.
Food, the Quickest Way to Navarra’s Soul
Navarra has a long culinary tradition linked to the local custom of enjoying good food in the company of friends and family. Over the centuries, the wide range of recipes from the different geographical areas has been passed from generation to generation, conserving the authentic taste of the raw ingredients.
Traditional cooking has stood the test of time. It has always been connected to the richness of the land, which yields succulent products each season. Borage, collard greens, cardoon, and artichokes in winter; asparagus in spring, fresh white beans and pepper in summer and mushrooms in autumn.
Txistorra (Chistorra) – The Navarran Chorizo
Chistorra is the great Navarran sausage. Originating in Navarra, it is a fresh and deep red sausage which is similar to the chorizo sausage. Txistorra, as it is called in Navarra, is made from fresh minced pork, garlic, salt and paprika. All these are cased in sheep gut, which provides a smaller diameter than chorizo.
The Txistorra is made at almost every butcher shop of Navarra, where the climate favors natural drying.
Caldereta – The Typical Stew for Big Events
Caldereta is the main Navarrian dish for big occasions. It is prepared with either lamb or rabbit meat, together with potatoes, onions, and garlic. The name of the dish comes from the pot it is cooked in.
Traditionally, it is prepared with around 5 kilos of meat for 20 people. And yes, you guessed right, it takes around 3 to 4 hours.
Canutillos de Crema – A Traditional Cream-filled Dessert
Canutillos de Crema is a traditional sweet that has multiple variations Although they can be filled with cream, the traditional recipe requires them to be filled with custard. Canutillos de Crema can be made with a puff pastry dough or with the classic Spanish ‘broken dough’.
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Map of Wineries in Navarra wine region
Discover the long wine tradition of Navarra and discover some of the best wineries in this region
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