The Navarra wine region is south of Pamplona and is divided into five zones: Valdizarbe, Baja Montana, Ribera Alta, Ribera Baja and Tierra Estella. The region's topography and climate are very diverse. Not surprisingly, the region produces many varieties of wine.
Navarra became a viticultural destination in the 19th century, when the oidium (fungus) and phylloxera (bugs) plagues slaughtered the vineyards of France. Vintners from Bordeaux came to Navarra and La Rioja, bringing experimental methods along with their celebrated varietals of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon [source: Hughes]. Eventually, the phylloxera arrived too, and almost all of Navarra's 124,000 acres (50,000 hectares) of wine grapes were wiped out [source: Wein-plus]. The region recovered by returning quickly to, and then increasing, its maximum yield [source: Hughes].
Efforts to increase the quality of Navarran wine began in the 1930s, but they were disrupted by Spain's civil war and World War II. The Spanish government finally granted the region Denomination of Origin (DO) status in 1967 [source: Parode]. This title is part of worldwide Appellation of Origin designations, which ensure quality products based on strict regional rules and processes.
In 1980, Navarra's government created the Navarra Viticulture and Oenology Centre (La Estación de Viticultura y Enología de Navarra, or EVENA). Under this leadership, the region's wineries have modernized and upgraded their technology. Experimentation has led to innovation in cloned varieties, sowing and harvesting techniques and vinification processes.
While much of Navarra's soil is rich in limestone, the rest of its composition varies widely, as do planting altitudes and amounts of sunlight and rainfall [source: Parode]. Add to this the relatively cool climate, and the irrigation provided by the Rio Ebro and its tributaries, and you have a very versatile wine region. Vintners have taken advantage of these conditions, slowly bringing the region into the international spotlight. Read on as we explore famous wines of the Navarra wine region.