I’ll get this out first and be done with it — I’m absolutely not into bullfighting or rhino hunting. However, like millions of others, I fell in love with the works of Ernest Hemingway decades ago and haven’t properly separated myself from the fantasy of his creation since. In his iconic work, The Sun Also Rises, friends spend time in Pamplona, a city filled with Northern Spanish culture.
Though the friends (a loose term — these are unraveled relationships) spend much time focused on sex and bullfighting there is an above-average focus on food and drink. As is Hemingway’s custom – the reader becomes hungry and thirsty for more. Navarra on the lips becomes an irresistible character.
Navarra Food and Wine
Navarra is located in Northern Spain, bordering Basque Country and Rioja. In addition to geographical borders, the region shares a 300-year historical connection with France, stitched together by years of faithful Roman Catholic pilgrims as they journey the Camino de Santiago.
This is one of Spain’s oldest Denominacion de Origen (DO), established in 1939 and encompassing five distinct areas. Tierra Estella, Valdiz Arbe, Baja Montana, Ribera Alta and Ribera Baja. Because the region enjoys swaths of Atlantic, Continental and Mediterranean climates – there is variety in the wines.
Soils are distinct as well with clay, limestone and pebble vineyards found throughout the DO. Navarra is a huge region, diverse and all aspects — there’s a Navarra wine for every chapter in The Sun Also Rises – I dare you to test it!
Wines from the area come from 90% red-skinned grapes to produce both red and rosé wines, which are made from the saignée method. White wines are also made here, as are a smidge of dessert wines.
The food reflects a culture of conservation and agriculture. White asparagus and piquillo peppers are native here. Foie gras, txistorra sausage and embutidos (charcuterie) are emblems of artisanal preparation and years of tradition. Speak of Spain, anywhere in the world, and people crave tapas – Navarra has a thriving Pintxos (tapas) culture, reflected in the many eateries in Pamplona that appear as characters in Hemingway’s book.
Cheese such as Roncal and Idiazabal comes from the milk of native Latza sheep, which also produces a dessert called cuajada – made of curdled milk resulting. I haven’t tried it, but I’ve read that it is underrated and delicious.
Compared frequently to neighboring stronghold Rioja, it’s not fair to fit the two regions together on a glass-by-glass basis. They are distinct from each other culturally and in flavor. It’s well worth it to get to know Navarra for the inspiration that she is.
Wine Pairing Weekend
Our Wine Pairing Weekend writer and blogger group have gathered around the theme of Navarra. Enjoy the stories and ideas shared here and then pop into our Twitter chat on April 14, 2018. Here’s what to expect:
Here on L’Occasion we: “Eat and Drink like Hemingway in Spain’s Navarra Region”
Nancy Brazil of Pull That Cork: “Wines of Navarra and a Meal to Match”
David Crowley of Cooking Chat: “Steak with Manchego Mushroom Sauce with Red Wine from Navarra”
Jade Helm of Tasting Pour: “Lamb Sofrito Nachos Night of Navarra Wines”
Nicole Ruiz Hudson of Somm’s Table: “Cooking to the Wine: Senorio de Otazu and Broiled Skirt Steak with Romesco Sauce”
Wendy Klik of A Day in The Life on the Farm: “A taste of Navarra Spain”
Camilla M. Mann of Culinary Adventures with Camilla: “Pacific Rock Crab Claws + 2016 Otazu Merlot Rosado “
Jennifer Gentile Martin of Vino Travels:“Pilgrimage to Navarra with Bodega Inurrieta”
Jane Niemeyer of Always Ravenous: “What Foods to Pair with Wines from Navarra Spain”
Sarah Ozimek of Curious Cuisiniere: “Basic Spanish Flan and Navarra Wine”
Cindy Rynning of Grape Experiences: “¡Salud! to Tapas Night and the Wines of Navarra”
Julie Santiago of Wine N Friends: “Taste of Pintxos and Navarra Wines”
Rupal Desai Shankar The Syrah Queen: “Navarra – Spain’s Hidden Gem”
Lauren Walsh The Swirling Dervish: “Sipping and Cooking with Patxaran: a Taste of Ancient Navarra”
Host Gwendolyn Alley The Wine Predator: “Along the Way with Wine and Food from Navarra Spain.”