Passion for Spanish wine


wine on your
next trip to Spain
See more articles
  • The Garnacha landscapes of Navarra
  • The Garnacha landscapes of Navarra
  • The Garnacha landscapes of Navarra
  • The Garnacha landscapes of Navarra
  • The Garnacha landscapes of Navarra
Navarra landscapes from west to east and north to south: 1. Baja Montaña. 2. Valdizarbe. 3. Tierra Estella. 4. Ribera Alta. 5 Ribera Baja. Photo credits: Amaya Cervera

Recommended wines

The Garnacha landscapes of Navarra

Amaya Cervera | November 14th, 2023

In our second article on Garnacha from Navarra, we look at the main areas where it is grown, the different expressions of the variety and the most interesting wines we have found in each of them.

After the dramatic decline that Garnacha has experienced in recent decades, which are its main strongholds today? Figures for 2022 put Ribera Baja in first place, with 857 hectares, followed by Baja Montaña (782 ha), Ribera Alta (686 ha) and, far behind, Valdizarbe (155 ha) and Tierra Estella (116 ha)

The variety is deeply rooted in Baja Montaña, where it accounts for 55% of the surface under vine, twice as much as Tempranillo, which comes second with 342 ha. In Ribera Baja, on the other hand, it accounts for 30%, but the two varieties are more evenly distributed, with Tempranillo just 10 ha ahead of Garnacha, with a total of 866 ha.

In the other subzones, the presence of Garnacha is more limited: 19% in Ribera Alta, where Tempranillo dominates (32%), and only 9% in Terra Estella. In Valdizarbe, with 24%, it is the most widely planted variety, closely followed by Tempranillo (135 ha), Merlot (115 ha) and Cabernet Sauvignon (106 ha). 
In terms of villages (see table below), only six exceed 100 ha and account for 52% of the total area under cultivation for this variety in Navarra. The rest is fragmented, with the majority of villages in the DO having fewer than 50 ha of Garnacha.






Ribera Baja


San Martín de Unx

Baja Montaña



Ribera Alta



Ribera Baja



Baja Montaña



Baja Montaña



Ribera Baja



Baja Montaña



Ribera Baja



Ribera Alta



Ribera Alta



Ribera Alta






Ribera Alta


This map  will help you locate the villages mentioned below.

Baja Montaña

This sub-area comprises the north-eastern part of the DO and is home to Navarra's most famous Garnacha village. With the second largest surface area planted with this variety in Navarra, San Martín de Unx is also home to a number of quality producers. 

The most significant recent events here have been the arrival of Raúl Pérez with a group of investors to take over Domaines Lupier, and a devastating fire in 2022 that affected many of that vintage's wines (smoke taint is no longer confined to California or Australia; see the `hoto below). Between March and September, the two visits I made to San Martín this year, the landscape improved considerably, but the fire was certainly a hard blow for the producers.

The vineyards are surrounded by the Guerinda and Ujué mountain ranges and rise from just under 400 metres to 750 metres. The mountainous landscape influences the wines, with notes of Mediterranean scrubland that can be fairly intense. 

The San Martín co-operative controls most of the vineyards in the area. Its winemaker, Gonzalo Celayeta, is one of the most dynamic names on the Navarran wine scene. He also runs his own project and advises other bodegas that source their grapes from the village, such as Unsi and Latido de Sara. Whereas Latido de Sara Wild 2021 (€6) is a fresh entry-level red with pharmacy-like aromas that offers good value for money, Unsi Terrazas de Garnacha 2019 (25,000 bottles, €12) shows a deep scrubland character. Made from high elevation vineyards, it offers a good introduction to the village's distinctive style. And Kimera (€14,000 botellas), made alongside Luis Moya, bring the originality of a Granacha that has been aged in tinaja.

Among the top wines, two 2018s stand out. El Duende (€25, 1,400 bottles), from Celayeta's personal project, is pale and very expressive, with thyme, dried herbs and hints of citrus (orange peel). Domaines Lupier's La Dama (10,000 bottles, €36) is an exceptional, fine Garnacha with remarkable depth from the old vines (some plots date back to 1903) and the kind of texture found in much more expensive wines. It was made by the previous owners and blended by Raúl Pérez. A third recommendation is Santa Zita 2021 (500 bottles, €29, outside the DO) from Aseginolaza & Leunda. This is a refined and evocative red, although difficult to find due to its extremely low production. In any case, the best Garnachas in Navarra are very reasonably priced, which is a great advantage for wine lovers.

The Baja Montaña extends well beyond San Martín. Beyond the Ujué mountain range lies the Aibar Valley. With slightly gentler terrain, this is a cooler area facing the Pyrenees, although well protected from the north and north-west winds by the Izco and Alaiz mountain ranges. The villages are relatively unknown, but the winemaking tradition is remarkable. Cooperatives here have supplied (and some still do) grapes to the largest wineries in Navarra, as in the case of the Aibar cooperative and Vinícola de Navarra, or Eslava and Chivite. The latter has just launched its own wine, Paraje Guezari (2,900 bottles, €18), which will be released for the first time in the 2021 vintage. The grapes come from two 40-year-old dry-farmed vineyards that reflect the personality of the area's characteristic stony soil, known locally as 'saso'. The Sada cooperative has a long-standing bottling tradition. Its Palacio de Sada Rosé offers great value and is fresh on the palate but has the structure that can be achieved in this region.

Lerga sits at one of the coolest spots in the valley. The cooperative closed down and a private winery, Caudalía, is now using its facilities. The village has found an unexpected new ambassador in the red Golerga, from a new project by Viña Zorzal in partnership with a local winegrower who tends six hectares of old-vine Garnacha. The 2021 vintage faithfully reflects the fresh, crisp fruit character of this latitude.

Further north, sheltered by the Leire mountain range, Liédena is another stronghold of freshness, which is evident in the local coooperative's rosé. Its members have a partnership agreement with Master of Wine Frank Smulders. Smulders sources old-vine Garnacha for his project, called Liskar Vinos, and in return lends a hand with the winemaking. He knows the area from his days as a consultant in Sada and is particularly fond of its continental climate and the heritage of old vines. The grapes are harvested when fully ripe, even for the rosé, as Smulders believes the higher alcohol content is offset by the area's excellent natural acidity. The flagship wine, made from old vines, is Liskar, but he also makes a savoury, spicy young red called Txiki. The rosé, from a 70-year-old vineyard, really fills the palate without losing freshness. Ugasti, the most special wine, is a field blend from a small plot planted in 1900 with nine different varieties, with 70% Garnacha. It is a complex, sapid, captivating red, with depth, but not at all heavy. A total of 130,000 bottles are produced (all with screw cap), 97% of which are sold abroad.


Crossed by the river Arga, this sub-area stretches south of the Pamplona basin and the protective barrier of Mount Perdón. Valdizarbe is a land of pilgrimage. In Puente La Reina, two branches of the Pilgrim's Camino de Santiago meet: one from France and the other from Aragon. This is the wettest part of DO Navarra. The green landscape is dotted with hills and valleys, with some vineyards close to the mountains, although vine-growing has declined considerably in recent times. The reasons for this are the proximity of Pamplona, which has resulted in a greater rural exodus than in other areas, and the lower income from vines compared to other crops.

This was not always the case: in the 1960s, according to Alain Huetz de Lemps in his book Viñedos y vinos del noroeste de España (Vineyards and Wines of Northwest Spain), 52% of the land in Artazu and 41% in Mañeru was under vine. Recent developments have involved acquisitions, such as the purchase of Vinícola de Navarra (Las Campanas is its best-known brand) by the Manzanos group from Pernod Ricard in 2017, rather than new projects.

The climate allows other varieties to be grown in addition to Garnacha, which makes for a more varied portfolio. A long-established producer like Señorío de Sarría produces both rosé (Viñedo Cinco) and red Garnacha (Viñedo Uno de Garnachas Viejas), but its core range revolves around blends.  

Garnacha accounts for 30% of Nekeas' vineyards. The Añorbe-based cooperative pioneered old-vine Garnacha in the area with El Chaparral de Vega Sindoa. But its technical director, Concha Vecino, also champions Cabernet, Merlot and white varieties such as Chardonnay and Garnacha Blanca. One of the most difficult tasks they embarked on was the re-grafting of some Garnacha clones, which they found to be of inferior quality, with massal selections from their old vines. The red Cepa por Cepa 2021 (€6, 40,000 bottles) is made specifically from these vineyards. Its fresh style, with herbal notes and crunchy red fruit, really transports you to the landscape it comes from.

Artazu is another important village, thanks to the presence of Artadi and the determination of the López de Lacalle family, who came from Rioja to fly the flag for Garnacha. Their top red Santa Cruz de Artazu (4,000 bottles, €35) has set a new quality standard for the variety in Navarra. The style is fresher than in Baja Montaña, with blueberries, violet aromas and nice tension on the palate, particularly in cooler vintages. I found the red Garnacha from La Casa de Lúculo, a winery in Mendigorria that sources grapes from this village as well as from Aibar in the Baja Montaña sub-area to be riper.  

Valdizarbe is also a source of supply for small producers working outside the DO, such as Luis Moya, who blends grapes from Artazu into Artaxo (1,200 bottles for the 2021 vintage, €22), a fragrant, evocative red with everything you would expect from a cool-climate Garnacha. He also farms a very characterful plot with limestone soils on the road to Añorbe, which produces the ripe, deep, mineral single-vineyard red El Yesal (less than 1,000 bottles, €28).

Tierra Estella

The Camino continues westwards through the Tierra Estella sub-area. Wine lovers can stop off at the wine fountain of Bodegas Irache in the picturesque village of Ayegui. With the imposing presence of the Andía and Urbasa mountain ranges in the background, the terrain becomes gentler and more Mediterranean as it descends southwards. Garnacha is almost marginal in this spectacular setting, but it still thrives in the oldest remaining vineyards.

In recent years, the focus has been on Tempranillo and international varieties, as evidenced by some of the area's better known wineries: Arínzano, Chivite's Villatuerta estate (now part of the Perelada group) or Pago de Larrainzar. For a while, the producer that championed Garnacha was Emilio Valerio with its single vineyards grown on the southern slopes of Montejurra, in Dicastillo. Of the ones I tasted, all of them with long bottle ageing, my favourite was Viña de San Martín 2014 (€37) for its ripe, smooth tannins, complex herbal notes and lovely acidity; the grapes come from a vineyard planted in 1968. Dicastillo is also one of Aseginolaza & Leunda's preferred villages for the many nuances of the various elevations and exposures.

Chivite launched its first ambitious red Garnacha in the 2015 vintage under the VT 3 Riberas designation of origin. The current 2019 vintage of the single-vineyard La Zorrera (€44) features a fresh, spicy profile with considerable structure in the background, compared to the gentler version released within the Finca Legardeta range (€14.5) under the DO Navarra seal. 

Tándem, the joint project of Alicia Erayalar and Jose María Fraile in the Yerri Valley, has developed a specific range of Garnacha wines. It includes an entry-level wine aged in concrete, the spicy Invoca 2020 (€12.50), made from a selection of small plots in Tierra Estella and Valdizarbe, and the fragrant, evocative Incólume 2021 (€30) sourced from two old vineyards located at 700 m elevation on chalky soils.

 This is also the case of Alzania, in Los Arcos, in the so-called Sonsierra Navarra, with three further wines devoted to the variety. Those sourced from old vines are particularly interesting: El Retorno 2021 (€12, 4,250 bottles, excellent value for money), an aromatic, juicy red with fine tannins; and the new single-vineyard release El Poblado 2021 (€43, 1,153 bottles), which has more depth and concentration, but also offers freshness and savouriness, suggesting good potential for bottle ageing. The grapes come from a historic vineyard planted in 1905. Situated on the site of a Roman settlement, as evidenced by the adjacent necropolis, it was once a Celtiberian village and borders the Pilgrim's Way to Santiago de Compostela.

Since Rioja group Vintae acquired a majority stake in 2013, Aroa has been seriously turning its attention to Garnacha. With its low pH, Garnacha was the key to their successful debut in the sulphite-free wine category with Le Naturel. The focus has now turned to the acquisition of old vineyards, such as the plot registered in 1920, from which they make the new Lakar (€45), their most ambitious red to date - the 2020 vintage has a depth and an earthy character.

Another producer to watch is Josu Amatria, a young winemaker in the early stages of his career, who is based in Ayegui, his family's village. Although his wines are produced in very limited quantities, Amatria is committed to Garnacha and has a well-defined project. He is determined to create a connection between the vineyards along the Camino de Santiago route in Tierra Estella and the rest of the Sonsierra Navarra, including those in DOCa Rioja. An example of what is yet to come is the refined Amatria Selección Garnacha 2021 (€22, 1,500 bottles), made from vines aged over 85 years old. It is a fragrant, expressive wine, with little extraction, but with depth, excellent texture and a fresh, aromatic finish.

Ribera Alta

Influenced by the river Ega, this sub-area covers the middle fringe of Navarra  and the land becomes flatter towards the south. The construction of the Canal de Navarra, which brings water from the Itoiz dam (the first part, down to Pitillas, was completed in 2011), has widened the range of crops in dry-farming areas that were previously only suitable for growing vines, cereal crops and olives. Although the Canal also supplies water to the lower fields of San Martín de Unx and the southern area of Tierra Estella (Lerín, Cárcar...), it has had a considerable impact and has brought major changes to Ribera Alta. However, according to David Palacios, president of the DO and winegrower in Olite, "those of us who are committed to the vineyards have the opportunity to irrigate with an eye on quality, especially in the current context of climate change". After three consecutive years of drought, irrigation in 2023, according to Palacios, "allowed us to pick better grapes and achieve more balanced acidity." 

Most of the Garnacha grown in Ribera Alta is destined for the production of rosé wines, which play a central role in the portfolios of the area's main players. The trend in recent years is towards refined, pale wines (Homenaje Pequeñas Producciones or Pagos de Araiz Blaneo) and more sophisticated styles. This is the case of Albret Rocío (€8), aged for two months in oak barrels, or El Arrebol de La Carra Cabra from Viña Palacios, the new small project of the president of the DO. 

Another trend has been to expand the range with a single-varietal red Garnacha. Ochoa has been producing 8A Maitena (1,100 bottles, €14) for some time now, thanks to the determination of second-generation producer Adriana Ochoa. Aged in concrete and oak, the wine seeks to express the character of the stony soils of the Traibuenas estate. And Marco Real has followed suit with the Colección Privada Garnacha.

Garnacha from Ribera Alta tends to be more mature, with dark fruit aromas, earthy notes and, in the best cases, herbal notes reminiscent of vermouth and orange peel. This is the style of Albret La Loma 2021 (€8) or, in a similar vein but perhaps a little fresher, Inurrieta's Mimao Garnacha 2021 (€13).

Some notable examples in the area include Sierra Perra 2021 (3,980 bottles, €19), a red made by the former cooperative in Lerín, which became a limited company in 2007 and is now called Bodegas Alconde. Under the guidance of consultants Ana Martín and Pepe Hidalgo, grapes are grown in a very dry area with compacted soils, but thanks to the shade of the mountains the wine is fresher than expected, combining brandied plums with Mediterranean herbs against a floral background. Azul y Garanza's Naturaleza Salvaje 2021 (13,000 bottles, €15, certified organic) is aged in clay and concrete eggs. Similarly, the nose combines blueberry and thyme aromas but the wine is lighter on the palate, probably due to the use of amphorae.

Perhaps my favourite wine from this area is the first foray into Ribera Alta from Bodegas Máximo Abete, a family winery based in San Martín de Unx (Baja Montaña). The grapes come from some of the few remaining goblet-trained vineyards in Tafalla and Pueyo, which are farmed in partnership with their owners. Guerinda Parcelas de Garnacha Txirolas Quintana Bilarraga 2020 (1,366 bottles, €15) is an aromatic, slightly wild red with voluptuous fruit, chamomile and scrubland aromas and excellent acidity. Another wine to give voice, and hopefully continuity, to Navarra's heritage of old vine Garnacha.

Ribera Baja

The southernmost sub-area of Navarra is a vast plain dominated by the imposing presence of the Moncayo mountain and bordering with Rioja Oriental and Aragón. Boasting the highest levels of sunlight and lowest rainfall, it is difficult to understand why an early-ripening variety like Tempranillo has taken over a large part of the territory to the point of surpassing Garnacha by just under 10 hectares.

With most of the vineyards in the hands of cooperatives, most of the area’s Garnacha is destined to rosés. Cintruénigo and, to a lesser extent, Corella are the main villages.

Viña Zorzal, a winery in Corella founded by the Sanz family, started a red revolution in the area when their partner Rafa Regadera showed them the potential of old Garnacha vines grown in Fitero, an area influenced by the Iberian mountain range. The arrival of Aragonese winemaker and Garnacha specialist Jorge Navascués as consultant, the dynamism of the Sanz brothers and the increasing number of joint projects with Spanish and international producers has worked as a true catalyst (see here our article on Viña Zorzal). The winemaking style, with varying percentages of stems and restrained oak input, offsets the natural ripeness of the area, where the tannins can be a bit rustic. A good example is the entry-level, unpretentious red Viña Zorzal Garnacha (€8) in a warm vintage like 2022, fruit-driven, spicy and really pleasant to drink. The wines gain focus and depth as the range moves upwards through Malayeto, Corral de los Altos and Señora de las Alturas until Punto de Fuga (€70), a slightly reductive and extreme wine made jointly with Argentinian producer Matías Michelini.

Another producer who is exploring the potential of old vines in this area is Ubeta Wines. Roberto Aguirre’s winery is located in Barillas, where he owns 30 hectares of vines over 45 years old in Fitero, Ablitas, Barillas and Cintruénigo. With some international collaborations in the pipeline, the range goes from the original Antón Aguirre Joven de Garnachas Viejas 2021 (€17, fermented with whole bunches and aged in concrete), with plenty of herbal notes that offset the area’s ripeness, to the ambitious Berabal (1,650 bottles, €60), a deeper, more structured red aged in foudre and concrete tanks. Intended to develop further in the bottle, it is made from their oldest plots.

Magaña, a winery that built its reputation on Merlot, makes Los Cascajos 2020 (5,000 bottles, €16) from 50-year-old trellised vines in Barillas and 25- to 50-year-old vines grafted with Evena clones on lime-rich soils in Castejón. This Garnacha shows blueberry fruit and floral (violet) notes, but the palate is slightly austere and mineral with a chalky-like note on the finish.


Aseginoloza & Leunda: evocative Garnachas that began as a hobby
Navarra’s fate is inextricably linked to Garnacha
Garnacha, can a grape be sexy?
Viña Zorzal: Navarra varieties, landscape and international outlook
0 Comment(s)
Comment on this entry*
Remember me:
privacy policy
*All comments will be moderated before being published: