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Until the 1990s, Aragon overwhelmingly produced bulk, entry level wine which in most cases was the result of wine cooperatives. But in recent years, modern winemaking technology has allowed some of Aragon’s wineries to develop a reputation for quality wines with more complexity, balance and finesse. Read on to discover some of the best wines to try from Aragon.
The Bodegas Alto Moncayo are located in the Campo de Borja, one of Aragon‘s five Denominación de Origen, or DO. This is one of the region’s most well-regarded wineries and two of their wines were awarded an impressive 100 points by famous wine critic Robert Parker: the 2007 and 2009 Alto Moncayo Garnacha. The 20 months spent in oak help make a rounder, more harmonious wine which is still bursting with intense aromas of red and black fruit. Yet there’s a certain minerality to the Garnacha which helps provide an overall impression of precision and complexity.
If the word ‘cooperative’ doesn’t usually conjure an image of quality wines, the Bodegas Borsao are very much an exception. The cooperative was founded in 1958 but rebranded as Bodegas Borsao in 2001 as an association of some 700 vineyards, today reduced to just over 300. Yet their wines have become a reference in Aragonese and Spanish winemaking and stand out for their relative youth (just five months spent in new French oak).
If some of Aragon’s finer wines can reach upwards of €40 (US$47) a bottle, Bodegas Ateca’s Honoro Vera is both remarkably affordable and outstandingly good. Made from older vines with relatively low yields – the fewer the grapes on the vine, the greater the concentration of flavours theoretically – this wine achieves the kind of balance and intensity of flavours you wouldn’t necessarily expect to find for €7 (US$8.25) a bottle.
The Bodegas Aragonesas is one of Aragon’s most popular wine cooperatives, best known for their relatively cheap and cheerful Coto de Hayas range of wines, some of which start at just €3 (US$3.54) a bottle in Spanish supermarkets. However, the slightly more expensive Coto de Hayas, such as the ‘Centenario’ – the name suggests some of the vines are nearly 100 years old – is good value for a powerful Aragonese Garnacha which is suitably expressive of its terroir.
The DO Cariñena is where the well-known carignan varietal is thought to have originated – although somewhat ironically in Spanish it is called mazuelo and has largely fallen out of favour. The Bodegas Ignacio Marin was established in 1903 and in recent years they have produced some rather spectacular wines which have only been recognised as such after a number of years in the cellar: the 1999 Cariñena Barón de Lajoyosa Gran Reserva is truly remarkable if you can still find it and so too is the 2005.
A relative newcomer on the Aragonese wine scene, the Bodegas Breca was founded in 2010 by wine trader, maker and all round wine whizz Jorge Ordóñez. Interestingly, for his Breca wines Ordóñez uses a clone of Garnacha known as Garnacha de Aragón which appears to be one of the genetic ancestors of the common Garnacha. The grapes are hand picked and the wine left to mature in French oak for 21 months before bottling. Robert Parker described Breca as ‘the most amazing wine I have ever tasted at this price point in over three decades’ for the 2010.
The name Altovinum refers to the fact that many of this vineyard’s vines are planted at a relatively high elevation, somewhere between 50 and 950 meters (160 to 3100 feet) above sea level. What’s more, the soil is pure slate which makes for very similar conditions to that of Spain’s famous Priorat winemaking region. The Evodia Old Vines Garnacha is bursting with fruit but also has a smooth spiciness to it which lasts on the palate, with smooth, silky tannins which make this wine easy to pair with food or enjoy on its own.