If you haven’t discovered the food and wines of Navarra, northeast of Rioja in northern Spain, they are worth exploring and tasting. What foods to pair with wines from Navarra starts with the region’s local culinary specialties and the wine varieties grown there.
Navarra is known as the garden of Spain for its locally-grown high-quality fresh vegetables including; white asparagus, artichokes, shell beans and piquillo peppers just to name a few. In addition foie gras, charcuterie, game birds, brook trout, lamb, and two famous sheep milk cheeses; Ronal and Idiazábal made from the raw milk of the native Latxa sheep, are all specialties of the region. (don’t forget, what grows together often goes together; food + wine)
The wines grown in Navarra are diverse.
70% are Native Varieties; Tempranillo 33%, Garnacha (Grenache) 24%, Graciano 1.5%, Viura 2.25%, Mazuelo/Cariñena .5%.
30% are International Varieties; 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Merlot, 5.4% Chardonnay, 1.4% Syrah, 1.2% Muscatel, .1% Pinot Noir.
I tasted three Navarra wines shown in the photo above, also a diverse sampling. An Unoaked Chardonnay, a Garnacha, and a red blend.
My Tasting Notes
2016 Castillo Monjardin, Chardonnay, El Cerezo
13% abv | $13 (sample) 100% Chardonnay Unoaked
Bright pale lemon in color. Beautiful floral nose of citrus blossoms. Medium- body and acidity. On the palate fresh tropical fruits and lime notes.
2015 El Chaparral De Vega Sindoa Old Vines Garnacha
14.5% abv | $15 | 100% Garnacha
Light ruby in color with a slight garnet rim. Medium tannins, medium body, and medium- acidity. Notes of vanilla, leather, licorice, cloves, cherry, roasted plum and prunes.
2009 Senorio de Otazu, D.O.P. Pago de Otazu
14.5% abv | $18 (sample) | 82% Cabernet Sauvignon 15% Merlot 3% Tempranillo
Ruby in color with a magenta rim. Vanilla and ripe fruit aromas. Medium+ tannin and medium body. On the palate red and black berries with earthy notes.
Historically Navarra’s food culture is simple, hearty fare made from the finest and freshest ingredients. I made herb garlicky pork in the slow cooker and then added a fresh side of white & green bean, and red onion salad. I served it over rice however, potatoes are far more traditional.
The dish worked with all three wines. The Unoaked Chardonnay hit the perfect balance with the simple freshness of the bean salad and the leaner lighter pork tenderloin. The Garnacha with its lower acidity and tannins worked with the lean pork tenderloin, and the creamy white beans met the silky texture of the wine. The Otazu red blend with 82% Cabernet Sauvignon was probably my least favorite pairing with the pork. While the pork dish was generally lighter, it did have an earthy character with the herbs and garlic making it workable with the Otazu.
Another pairing I tried after reading about “The Flavor Matrix” by James Briscione, was Coffee and Five-Spice Roasted Rainbow Carrot Salad paired with Grenache. The recipe featured in Food & Wine magazine April 2018.
The concept of “The Flavor Matrix” is to venture outside of traditional food and wine pairings and consider the food’s molecules and isolated compounds. In other words, “The Flavor Matrix” is a guide of how to use aromatic compounds to pair ingredients and (wine). Out of an abundance of curiosity, I tried the recipe, Coffee and Five-Spice Roasted Rainbow Carrot Salad paired with the 2015 El Chaparral De Vega Sindoa Old Vines Garnacha. I was amazed at how the five spice and coffee brought out the spice characteristics in the wine. I look forward to experimenting with more aromatic compounds and food and wine pairings (for the recipe check out the Food & Wine magazine, or it is also in the book).
A flavorful slow cooker dinner served with a fresh bean salad paired with an unoaked Chardonnay or Garnacha
- 2 and 1/2 lbs. pork tenderloin, cut into 1 and 1/2 inch pieces
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large white onion, finely chopped
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 5 large garlic cloves, smashed
- 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, finely minced
- 2/3 cup dry red wine
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 2/3 cup low sodium chicken broth
Season the pork generously with salt and pepper. In a large frying pan over medium-high heat, add 2 tablespoons olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the pork pieces in batches, searing all sides until browned. Transfer the pork with tongs to the slow cooker.
Return frying pan to medium-high heat and add remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the onion and thyme and sauté until the onion is golden, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic cloves and rosemary and sauté for 1 minute. Add the red wine and vinegar and stir. Transfer to the slow cooker and pour over the pork. Add the chicken stock to the slow cooker and stir to combine. Cover the slow cooker and cook on the low setting for 5 hours. If possible stir a few times during the first 2 hours.
Serve with White and Green Bean, Red Onion Salad, recipe follows.
- 1/2 lb. fresh green beans, trimmed and halved
- 1 15 oz. can white beans, drained and rinsed
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons Italian parsley, chopped
- 1/4 red onion, finely sliced
- 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
Cook green beans in boiling water for about 4-5 minutes. Drain.
In a large flat bowl, combine all the ingredients and mix well
Check out my fellow Wine Pairing Weekend (#WinePW) bloggers and their food and wine pairings with Navarra wines. Join us on Twitter Saturday, April 14, at 11 am ET following the hashtag #winePW.
Jill Barth of L’Occasion: “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 the 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.”
A special thank you to Wines of Navarra for providing the #winePW group wine samples.
Wines of Navarra