“I went to Aragon last June.” If you don’t remember this sentence, I invite you to read the first part of this article. I’ve already shared the two denominations that we visited in this first part, which were Somontano and Campo de Borja and in this part I’ll continue with the other two denominations of the region which are Cariñena and Calatayud.
DO (Denominación de Origen) Cariñena is the oldest wine region of Aragon, and one of the oldest of the country as well, where the wines from this region is an old known for the Spanish tables.
The long wine growing history of this region, which foreruns at least since Roman times, amazed me even before arriving there. The comments that I’ve read from history about wines of Cariñena surprised me; the surprising part was the idea of people started commenting on wines centuries ago, and we are still doing it! Here are some of those comments from dusty pages of history:
“If this wine is from your property, the promised land is close by” Voltaire, 1773.
“The wine of Cariñena is of the best quality, I have no doubt that it will be much sought after in England” Joseph Townsend, 1786.
“Exquisite wine is made, particularly from the Garnacha grape” Alexandre de Laborde, 1809.
“The white wine of Cariñena is worthy of being better known outside Spain, especially the wine from the Garnacha grape” Charles Davillier, 1862.
Coming to today, DO Cariñena continues to be a region linked to viticulture and winemaking with a rich cultural heritage behind. There are 1520 grape producers and 33 wineries registered in Consejo Regulador of the DO, which commercialize 52 millions of bottles (2017). New transformations happened both in viticulture management and winemaking techniques to be able to modernize the production, without giving compromises from protecting the environment and preserving the traditional wine quality.
Macabeo is the most planted white variety followed by Chardonnay and Garnacha Blanca. Garnacha tinta is the most planted red variety followed by Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Cariñena-Mazuelo and Merlot.
The first vineyard that we visited was a plot of bush trained Garnacha Tinta planted in 1978. The surface of the soil was covered with stones. One of the advantages of these stones to be there is to make a natural weed control – this way it’s avoid that the weeds compete with the vines to use the available water in the soil, which is very important for the non-irrigated vineyards.As in the case of other DO’s (Somontano and Campo de Borja) that I’ve mentioned in part 1, here the vines were in inflorescence stage.After this we passed to a younger vineyard of Garnacha Tinta, planted in 1994, again bush trained.Here, the physiological state was ahead in comparison to the first stop, fruit set was about to start.
After visiting the vineyards, we’ve arrived to Bodega Tierra de Cubas where we had an amazing dinner at the cellar. But before we started, I had chance to taste a cava from this region, Cava Particular. I believe this must be the first cava that I have tried which was not from Catalonia. It was a blanc de noir, produced from 100% Garnacha grapes from Aragon. It was quite well made, elegant live bubbles meet enjoyable red fruit aromas, and has a very good price point considering all the effort behind the traditional method of sparkling wine production.
Passing inside of the cellar, we’ve started the dinner in saloon surrounded by barrels. The starter was marinated red leg partridge on sour potatoes from Campo de Daroca with lettuce shoots. First time eating partridge, I am not a huge fan of eating game birds, but the presentation was appetizing. This was paired with a glass of blend of Moscatel de Alejandria and Chardonnay, again the brand same line, Particular. The main dish was beef cheeks from the Pyrenees glazed with Cariñena wine (PDO) with potato confit from Campo de Daroca and truffled leek soup. This delicious plate was beautifully paired with another wine from the winery, a mono–varietal Garnacha Centenaria 2012. Finally the dessert made a very impressive closing – radiquero cheese mousse with Calanda peach ice-cream in wine.
DO Calatayud locates in the southwestern corner of Aragon, and the vineyards in this DO overlies on 46 municipatilies with a total area of 3300 ha. 12 wineries which are registered under Consejo Regulador produces more than 7.7 million of bottles. (2017)
Here, we drove by many fruit trees – mostly sweet cherries. I couldn’t be happier when some local growers stopped our bus to offer us some sweet cherries! Although it was a bit early for the harvest, they were delicious.
In this plot, bush trained Garnacha Tinta was planted in 1966. I did the math for you – these vines are more than 50 years old!
In between the vineyard visits, we went to La Factoria Resort for lunch. They welcomes us with an aperitif plate, a shot of cream cheese with crunchy seafood, a homemade croquettes of Iberico ham, and a tasting of smoked potato cream with octopus. The starter was vol-au-vent with mushroom and prawn in piquillo sauce. I had chance to taste Albada 2017, made from Macabeo grapes by Bodegas Virgen de la Sierra, and a rosé wine Baltasar Gracian 2017 Bodegas San Alejandro. Main dish was pork cheeks stewed in wine with potato cream and baby carrots, paired with a glass of 2015 Garnacha from old vines of Bodegas Ateca.
Following we visited a Syrah plot, planted in 2003 with VSP (Vertical Shoot Position) trellis system.
Finishing up the visit to Aragon with a special dinner in Gran Hotel in Zaragoza. Starter was creamy rice with borrajas (which is a widely grown vegetable in Aragon and Navarrra) and squid, paired with a blend of Macabeo-Chardonnay from Somontano, Viñas del Vero. Main dish was Ternasco de Aragon with baked potatoes, paired with Gran Viu Selección 2012, from Viñedos y Bodegas Pablo. The dessert was artisan sponge cake with Calanda peach (which is a delicious regional product of Aragon), paired with a Mistela Garnacha made and aged for 15 years, in experimental winery of CTA (El Centro de Transferencia Agroalimentaria). Mistela is a great way to finish a meal and a very good product to showcase of the quality of local grapes and their primary aromas.
Coming to an end, it was very impressive to see all these vineyards and taste the corresponding wines coming from their fruit. What is also impressive is to see people who are working very hard to protect their traditions and keep up with demands of the competitive wine market. They are doing a great job to find the balance in between those two, in my opinion.
All images © 2019 by Neslihan IVIT. All rights reserved.