Berués is an autochthonous grape variety that in the past was very important in Navarra. Due to factors such as the phylloxera plague in the 19th century, this variety disappeared completely. It was in 2017 when Bodega Otazu started a project to recover native grape varieties of Navarra, including Berués, which is based on the objective of revitalizing viticulture in the region and safeguarding local wine diversity. This project is still ongoing today, demonstrating Bodega Otazu’s ongoing commitment to rescue and preserve Navarra’s winemaking tradition over time.
The first written document that speaks of the Berués variety and its importance in Navarra dates back to the 17th century, exactly to the year 1620. Reference is made to the proclamation for the grape harvest of the Barvés (=Berués) and Mazuela varieties, the Barvés being harvested in its time and the Mazuela in theirs.
In some bibliographical references consulted during the research, quotes have been found in which it is described as a variety with superior quality to Tempranillo and Mazuelo, or it was even required by parishes as a tithe for its particular flavor.
In the documents found dating back to 1760, it is mentioned how the Parish of Sada demanded that the Berués variety be recognized and properly valued, highlighting its distinctive attributes in comparison with other varieties of inferior quality.
In 1792 the first descriptions of the Berués variety appear in the book Agricultura general y Gobierno de la casa de campo by Joseph Antonio Valcarcel. He describes the Berués as a variety of singular sweetness and softness with a very delicate skin. He distinguishes this variety from Tempranillo in the tenderness of the vine shoot and the softness of the leaf with greater greenness and lushness than the Berués. In this same book he talks about the different ways of winemaking where he talks about white, red and red wines.
In 1832, in the Tratado práctico del Cultivo de la vid includes the Barbés de Navarra among the five first class grape varieties for first class red wine together with the Tintilla de Sevilla, Tempranillo de la Rioja, Tinta de Ocaña and Tinto de Granada. There are also numerous mentions of the Berués grape in the production of the famous “Rancio de Peralta” (1836, Tratado del cultivo de la Vid y Enología and 1871, Hidalgo).
Before the appearance of powdery mildew in Navarre in 1850, the cultivation of Berués reached its greatest relevance, supported by numerous bibliographical references praising the qualities of this grape. During the years 1857 and 1877, it is estimated that around 3,944 hectares of Berués were cultivated, a figure that increased to almost 6,200 hectares in 1891, representing approximately 13% of the total area of vineyards in Navarra.
At the end of the 19th century, in the study carried out for the National Wine Exhibition of 1877, several vine varieties present in the vineyards of Navarre were highlighted. Firstly, the Mazuela, Bernés (also known as Berués), Tempranillo and Garnacha varieties were mentioned.
In 1885, the Berués variety was included in the index of varieties of Navarra in the winegrower’s book. In addition, in the statistical advance on vine cultivation and production published by the General Directorate of Agriculture, Industry and Commerce in 1889, Bernés is mentioned as a variety used for both white and red wine in towns such as Aoiz and Pamplona, and Barbés for white and red wine in Tudela, as well as for red wine in Tafalla.
With the arrival of phylloxera in 1895, the vineyard disappeared practically in its entirety, losing varieties that were very important in the viticulture of that time, among which the Berués was the most important. Vine cultivation was displaced towards the south of Navarre and in the Navarre Basin it was mostly replaced by the cultivation of cereals. In the vineyards that remained in the Basin, varieties more resistant to powdery mildew were planted, mainly Garnacha.
In the general report of the sessions of the National Viticulture Congress, the Bargüés (=Berués) variety is mentioned in the papers related to black-skinned and purple-colored grape varieties. Bargüés is mentioned in localities such as Arrasgoiti, and Berués and Berueses in Echauri.
At the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, there are abundant bibliographical references that mention the Berués variety in the production of main wines in Navarra. The 1915 publication by Nicolás García de los Salmones stands out, where the author indicates that in Navarra, the Garnacha, Mazuela, Berués and Tempranillo varieties were the main grape varieties used in the region.
He also points out that the conditions of the land and climate in Navarre are excellent in all the wine-growing regions, which allows an abundant and high quality production to be obtained. Various types of wine are mentioned, from the 8.5º chacolí in the fields of the high zone of the province of Navarra to the 16-17º alcohol wines harvested in certain places on the riverbanks.
The book Viticulture in Paul Pacottet’s Encyclopédie Agricole mentions the kinship between the Navarrese, Aragonese and Riojan ampelography. As for the red vineyards, the presence of varieties such as Barbés, Garnacha, Mazuela, Graciano, Tempranillo and Miguel de Arcos stands out. On the other hand, in the white vineyards, varieties such as Bernés, Palopa, Biona and Anabés are mentioned.
Within the chapter of secondary varieties in the description of the varieties cultivated in Navarra, Apolinar Azanza included the Berués variety in his work.
Bodega Otazu, in 1991, decided to revive the wine-growing activity in the Pamplona Basin, and continues to be firmly committed to the area where the winery is located by carrying out a project to recover native varieties with the aim of making wines as unique as those produced 150 years ago.
Otazu represents the culmination of the childhood dreams of Guillermo Penso’s father, who in the 1950s used to help in the family winery in Aoiz. He always longed to return to his homeland and position Navarra as a world reference of excellence. After 40 years, he had the opportunity to acquire this millenary estate with the ambition of restoring it to its former glory, when it was the leading supplier of wines to the kings of Navarra.
This project for the recovery of native varieties seeks to rescue the historical roots of the region and highlight its winemaking potential in today’s panorama.
Otazu is a project that pays tribute to history, respects its environment and constantly seeks the full expression of the winery’s terroir. From the time the first varieties were planted, it was kept in mind to convey the uniqueness of the site in which it is located. Over the past 30 years, the Otazu team has explored its past, its history and its roots, embarking on a path towards the recovery of what has been lost and the discovery of what is new.
In 2017, in its commitment to innovation in the wine sector, Bodega Otazu launched a project in collaboration with the Public University of Navarra (UPNA) and experts from the Viticulture and Enology Station of Navarra (EVENA), with the aim of recovering native varieties that used to be grown in the vineyards of the Pamplona Basin until the end of the 19th century. This project, led by José Luis Ruiz (1975-2020), technical director of Bodega Otazu, and Gonzaga Santesteban, full professor of Viticulture at the UPNA, was the next step in the search for the full expression of the terroir.
During field prospecting in 2017, the research team found isolated plants growing in the wild that were identified using DNA recognition techniques. Among the varieties recovered was Berués, an inexplicably lost gem. In addition, other varieties were discovered such as Mazuelo, Macabeo, Castellana Blanca, Tempranillo, Cinsaut, Jacquez, Palomino, Tinta de Navalc., Morate, MGM, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Garnacha, Benedicto, Tortonzona tinta, Cayetana and some unknown varieties. These varieties, which at one time were very important in the viticulture of the Pamplona basin, disappeared at the end of the 19th century due to diseases such as powdery mildew and phylloxera.
Recovering these indigenous varieties is part of the legacy that Guillermo Penso, owner of Bodega Otazu, wishes to leave to his daughter. Like his father, he has had the opportunity to add a new piece to the puzzle of the winery’s origins, thus approaching his obsession with expressing the uniqueness of the terroir. This new vineyard, named Pia in honor of Guillermo Penso’s daughter, represents Otazu’s commitment to innovation and respect for history.
This project to recover indigenous varieties not only strengthens Otazu’s mission to recover its terroir and put its wines back on the map of the great wines of Spain and the world, but also reinforces the culture of wine as a living legacy. Passion plays a fundamental role in this process, as it drives to explore unknown terroirs and bet on the future with uncertain results.
History and innovation are intertwined in Otazu, guiding this project towards a future that honors the past. The recovery of lost native varieties is an important step on the road to the full expression of Otazu’s terroir and to the recognition of its valuable contribution to the viticulture of the Pamplona Basin.
Berués bunch with separated flower buds.
In 2019, Bodega Otazu and the UPNA continued their project to recover native varieties to highlight the valuable viticultural and oenological heritage of the Pamplona Basin, focusing on the recovery of the Berués variety. After a thorough genetic and agronomic study, they succeeded in reproducing and multiplying it in a nursery.
This milestone marked an important step forward in the initiative, and in June of the same year the first Berués vines were planted in the vineyards of Bodega Otazu. Since the first planting carried out in the framework of the survey, a successful multiplication of the wood of all these recovered varieties mentioned above has been carried out, which has allowed the extension of this crop to be gradually expanded.
Planting of Berués grafts at the Otazu Winery.
February 2022 - May 2023
Bodega Otazu has set itself the goal of expanding its Berués plantation every year, in order to continue its study and ensure the necessary production for its winemaking. In February 2022, the winery’s technical team collected wood from the Berués plants for two main purposes. The first was to take this material to a nursery for grafting, while the second consisted of obtaining buds from the shoots collected for bud grafting on vines already planted.
Harvesting of dormant timber 2022-2023.
The grafting that will be carried out is the T bud graft, which consists of grafting a bud of the Berués variety, in this case, onto the trunk of a vine that has already been planted. The objective of this process is to accelerate production and avoid starting from scratch, considering that the vines are not yet fully formed.
Diagram of the T bud grafting process.