Featured Wine Region: Aragon, Spain
European wines are labeled by their “Destination of Origin” (DO), or the place in which they were grown, and usually specifies a smaller area within a larger wine region. This is especially true in Spain because it’s such a large country.
In the northeastern region of Aragon, there are four DOs: Campo de Borja, Calatayud, Cariñena, and Somontano. Throughout Aragon, there are 4 billion square feet of vineyards, with 60% residing in these 4 DOs. The most popular grape is the Cariñena, named for its corresponding DO, but there are dozens of other varietals that are approved to grow in Aragon.
Cariñena is one of the oldest protected wine growing areas in all of Europe and is located near the center of Aragon. Throughout the years, Cariñena has experienced periods of rapid development as locals maintained the high alcohol, robust wines they wanted to drink but modified the wine to a lighter, fruitier version meant for exportation. The region is credited with being the origin of the Carignan grape which is not only grown in Spain but can now be found around the world in places like California and Italy.
Campo de Borja is on the coast of the Atlantic, with similar climatic aspects as northern California- dry, cold winters, and balmy, warm summers. The records show that the first vineyards in the area were tended to by a monastery back in 1203, but the region didn’t become a recognized DO until the 1980s. The wines allowed here are made almost exclusively Garnacha, Tempranillo, and Cabernet Sauvignon as reds, and entirely Macabeo for the whites.
Although Calatayud isn’t the most widely known DO in Spain, especially to those outside Europe, it’s quite enormous, covering over 5,600 hectares and 46 different municipalities. Like Campo de Borja, this DO grows predominantly Garnacha and Tempranillo which make up almost all of the red wines of the area.
Somontano is the most popular DO in Aragon and has been growing grapes since the early ages of 2nd century BC, and like Campo de Borja, has been taken care of by monasteries over the centuries. Like the others, the Garnacha and Tempranillo flourish here, however, other foreign grapes are also allowed like Merlot, Syrah, and Chardonnay.
The climate and landscapes of Aragon are vastly different from one DO to the other which means each grape may taste different depending on where you are. However, that being said, it’s definitely best to go what it’s known for and pick up a bottle of Tempranillo or Garnacha to truly get a sense of the magic that happens here.