After spending some quality time in Somontano and Campo de Borja, we’ll be continuing our Aragon visit with Cariñena and Calatayud.
DO (denomination of origin) Cariñena is the oldest wine region of Aragon, and one of the oldest of the country as well. The wines from this region are old known for the Spanish tables. The long wine growing history of this region dates back at least since Roman times.
Throughout the centuries people were talking about wines of Cariñena. 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.
Arriving today, DO Cariñena continues to be a region linked to viticulture and winemaking with a rich cultural heritage behind. There are more than a thousand five hundred grape producers and thirty three wineries registered in Consejo Regulador of the DO, which commercialize fifty two 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 avoids the weeds competing with the vines to use the available water in the soil, which is very important for the non-irrigated vineyards.
After this we passed to a younger vineyard of Garnacha Tinta, planted in 1994, again bush trained.
Bodega Tierra de Cubas
After vineyard visits, we arrived at Bodega Tierra de Cubas. Our welcome wine was a cava from this region, called Cava Particular. It’s a blanc de noir, produced from 100% Garnacha grapes from Aragon. It’s an enjoyable sparkling wine with elegant live bubbles and red fruit aromas, with a reasonable price point considering all the effort behind the traditional method of sparkling wine production.
Passing to the cellar, our dinner was ready in a saloon surrounded by barrels. We started with a marinated red leg partridge on sour potatoes from Campo de Daroca with lettuce shoots. It tasted as appetizing as it looks. This was paired with a glass of blend of Moscatel de Alejandria and Chardonnay, the same line of Cava, 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 is located in the southwestern corner of Aragon, and the vineyards in this DO overlie forty six municipalities with a total area of three thousand hectares. Twelve wineries which are registered under Consejo Regulador produce almost eight million bottles a year. (2017)
On our way to the vineyards, we drove by many fruit trees – mostly sweet cherries. 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. These vines are more than 50 years old.
La Factoria Resort
In between the vineyard visits, we went to La Factoria Resort for lunch. They welcomed us with an appetizer 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 a 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 vertical shoot position (VSP) trellis system.
Gran Hotel in Zaragoza
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 Navarra) 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 the quality of local grapes and their primary aromas.
Coming to an end, visiting Aragon was a great experience to all the vineyards and taste the corresponding wines coming from their fruit, and match them with local cuisine. What is 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 do a great job to find the balance in between those two. All in all, Aragon has a lot to offer to wine, food and history lovers.
All images © 2019 by Wines of Nesli. All rights reserved.