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Ultimate Guide to the Navarra Wine Region

Navarra Wine Region History and Culture

Humans have inhabited the Navarra region since the Neolithic and even Paleolithic eras [source: Government of Navarra]. By the time the imperial Romans advanced into the region, they found a people called the Vascones living there (ancestors of the Basques) and grapevines that were already under cultivation [source: Voss]. The Roman military leader Pompey named the major city after himself, Pamplona, but in the mountain regions, Roman influence never fully took hold [source: Government of Navarra].

Over the millennia, the Basque people have fought for and achieved cultural independence. They may live within Spanish or French territory, but they are neither Spanish nor French. Their customs are distinct and even their language is unique [source: Alsop]. Even while the Moors and the Franks occupied Navarra in the 8th century, its people worked out their own political autonomy. A Christian coalition emerged to resist Moorish influence, and by the year 905, Navarra had become an independent kingdom under the monarch Sancho Garcés [source: Government of Navarra]. The Kingdom of Navarra went on to control Spain and part of France and was a regional force for more than five centuries.

During the Crusades, beginning in the late 11th century, Christian pilgrims passed through Navarra. French monks planted vineyards along the Camino de Santiago, providing a great boost to the region's viticulture. When the area later fell under French influence, a great deal of Navarra wines were exported over the Pyrenees [source: Dawes]. After 1492, the New World became another major export market [source: Wein-plus].

In the modern era, Navarra negotiated its regional independence through a number of charters dating from the late 18th and early 19th centuries. This arrangement has more or less persisted to the present day, with Navarra's system incorporated into the Spanish constitution since 1978 [source: Government of Navarra]. Nevertheless, a Basque nationalist movement remains active.

The citizens of this unique land spend much of their time growing grapes. Read on to learn about the Navarra wine region's agriculture.