Where to Find Great Garnacha, Part Two


Easy-going Garnacha is 2016’s red wine grape du jour. While savvy growers have brought Garnacha to all corners of the globe, there are five distinguished designations of origin in Spain that the grape calls home. Last week we highlighted one of them, DO Cariñena. You can read more about DO Cariñena and its signature fountain of wine here. But like all family trees, Garnacha has roots that branch in many different directions. Today we turn our attention to two more tiny and mighty ancestral Garnacha regions, DO Campo de Borja and DO Calatayud.
DO Campo de Borja

DO Campo de Borja is due north of Cariñena. Monks dominated viticulture in Campo de Borja through the 19th century. Campo de Borja (meaning "field of Borja”) is the name of both the appellation and the area’s largest town. Here you’ll find five thousand hectares of Garnacha under vine, most of which are fifty or more years old. In fact, the oldest vines in DO Campo de Borja date back to 1145. The region is nestled in the Ebro Valley at the foothills of Moncayo mountain. Warm air is sucked into the mountain slopes and mixes with weather systems which results in rainfall. This doesn’t happen terribly often, as the annual rainfall in DO Campo de Borja is around fifteen inches. Fortunately, old Garnacha roots can retain moisture for eons. Extreme heat is tempered by the cierzo -- a cold, dry, northwest wind which also plays a role in DO Cariñena. The cierzo cools the Garnacha grapes and concentrates their flavors.

There are three distinct areas within DO Campo de Borja. You can define them as the low, middle and high vineyard areas. The low-lying area is 350 to 450 meters above sea level. It is here that grapes mature early to create warm, powerful, and aromatic wines. The middle area is 450 to 550 meters above sea level. Here the vineyards are at their most dense, supported by soils from the Ebro River tributary known as La Huecha. Gently curved slopes and sun exposure create well-structured and juicy wines. Finally, the highest vineyard area is 550 to 700 meters above sea level, closest to Moncayo mountain’s foothills. This area makes incredibly rich and age-worthy reds, some of which are oaked. Limestone and iron soils dominate. These wines are available at sensational values.
Before an afternoon of tasting, enotourists must visit DO Campo de Borja’s famed wine museum. A visit to the museum will solidify your understanding of the Moncayo mountain’s magical sway over the vineyard terrain. In fact, the museum is located at the foot of Moncaya mountain. Add this stop to your travel itinerary stat.

Click here to learn more about DO Campo de Borja.

DO Calatayud

The eastern tip of DO Calatayud borders DO Cariñena, and it neighbors DO Campo de Borja to the south. The area achieved DO status in 1989, and its name, Calatayud, has roots in the Arabic word for castle (qalat). The region is home to sixteen wineries covering 8,000 acres, sixty percent of which are planted with Garnacha. High altitude (800 to 900 meters), steady winds, hilly terrain and ancient vines create thick-skinned grapes and wines that can age to perfection. The landscape undulates, which makes hand-harvesting a necessity. Weaving tractors through these old vines would be nearly impossible. Here, your Garnacha is grown among plantations of almond, cherry, olive, apple, pear and peach trees. Loose, rocky soils live among the limestone. There is a good chance that you’ll spot one or some of these notes in your next glass of DO Calatayud Garnacha.

The local wine authority, the Consejo Regulador, has set wine quality standards based on vine age. Those grown from vines fifty years old or older are given the classification “Calatayud Superior” and are highly sought. Older vines mean lower yields, and thus increased selectivity and concentration when it comes to the grapes that make your glass spin. The grapes here are precious, hallowed even. This is because harsh weather conditions (extremely hot summers and cold winters) subject the vines to damage. Many grape soldiers are lost, but those who survive make it count.

When it comes to travel, the Ruta del Vino Calatayud (wine route) is designed for passionate enotourists who wish to be fully immersed in wine history past and present. Just an hour from Madrid, DO Calatayud offers fine dining, luxurious accommodations, and of course fine wine. After you’ve had your fill of wine, make sure not to miss the nearby hot springs!

Click here to learn more about DO Calatayud.

Garnacha Day is September 16th. Celebrate the right way! Click here for details about our exclusive virtual tasting.

Photo credit: Wines of Garnacha

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