Rosado has always been Navarra’s curse and blessing. Countless bottles have been sold, but Navarra is capable of far more than simple, pretty rosado wine. It’s been only a decade or so since Navarra began producing more red and white wine than rosado; 15 years ago, more than half was rosado and today, less than one–fifth is pink. If its image has suffered as a result of all those pink wines; prices here can be laughably low, and value is everywhere. The flat, alluvial Ebro Valley is the source for lots of inexpensive wines, but the hills and mountainsides in the north and at the edges of subzones such as Tierra Estella, Ribera Alta, and Baja Montaña have some fantastic, if difficult, vineyards.
Navarra’s growers have cut back on their plantings of Garnacha, from nearly 80% 15 years ago to less than 40% today. Tempranillo thus far has benefited most from these uprootings and replantings; Garnacha probably deserves better, but it’s being ripped out nonetheless. Cabernet Sauvignon now stands at 10% of the vineyards, Merlot covers 8%, and Chardonnay is at 2% and rising. There are some very dynamic families and producers in Navarra, and great value, as well as surprising wines, should remain the hallmark of the region.
Navarra aging requirements might be viewed as aspirational: they are the same as Rioja and Ribera del Duero. A difference is the minimum barrel size; Navarra allows larger, 350–liter barrels—greater than Rioja’s 225–liter barrels. Uniquely, Navarra’s rules also require that no barrels are used for more than ten years. Subzones, from the warm and fairly arid Ebro valley to the cooler, wetter, and higher Sierra del Perdón just south of Pamplona, are an important element in understanding the DO.
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