Saturday, May 22, 2021

Learning Spain - Aragon's Four Wine Regions: Carinena, Somontano, Calatayud, and Campo De Borja Through Eight Wines #WorldWineTravel

Al Gairen Selection Sommelier's Garnacha Blend from Carinena with a Grilled Steak
Spain will be opening up to US tourists in June for post COVID 19 pandemic travel. People, who are itching to resume wine tourism, for just a little bit longer, will continue to have a bit relief on the virtual #WorldWineTravel to Spain. Wendy Klik from A Day in the Life on a Farm invited the bloggers to explore the wine regions of Aragon, an underrated wine region that produces quality wines at  great price points. Although Aragon may not be everyone's top places to visit in Spain, there are many sight-seeing spots in the capital, Zaragoza and nearby towns to explore, plus the bonuses of its diverse wine and food scenes

Photo Credit:

Aragon, which is located in the northeast of Spain, consists of four wine DOs (Denominación de Origen): Carinena, Somontano, Campo de Borja, and Calatayud. The climate in Aragon wine region is considered as moderate continental, but changes drastically from one end to another because of the mesoclimates (i.e., in-between macroclimate and microclimate) created by the terrains around and in-between the Pyrenees mountains in the north and the Iberic mountains in the south. The eastward-flowing Ebro River and the large Ebro Valley area lie in the middle of Aragon, sandwiched by the mountains.

North: Pyrenees mountains, South: Iberic mountains, Middle: Ebro River and Ebro Valley; Photo Credit:
Although the temperature can drop drastically in the areas closer to the Pyrenees, the areas that are closer to the Monegros desert could have an unbearable heat spike. Given the wide range of grape-growing conditions attributed by the altitude spectrum, vineyards that are affected by the various mesoclimates, yield a diverse portfolio of wines in spite of all being under the overarching wine producing region, Aragon. The most typical grape in the region nowadays is Garnacha, due to market demand and strong adaptability of the grape to the local growing conditions. Other popular varieties grown in the region include Aragon-indigenous grapes like Carinena, Parraleta, Macabeo, Alcanan, Moscatel, as well as non-Aragon natives like Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir or Gewurztraminer. 


The majority of Carinena's vineyards are situated at relatively high altitudes, between 1,300ft and 2,600ft. The continental climate is coupled with extreme seasonal and daily temperature fluctuations - namely the the cold northerly winds and warmer summer temperatures. The climate builds intensity to the local grapes, especially the indigenous Carinena grape, which gives the name to the town. Garnacha, which is today's most flavored grape there, also expresses big flavor and intensity due to the landscape. Carinena is a black-skinned wine grape variety and has become a common grape for blending in other other Spanish wine regions like Rioja and Priorat or in France. While Carinena vines can usually produce very large yields, it’s somewhat vulnerable to damages caused by mildew and rot.  Wines produced from old vines of Carinena are of much higher quality than the ones made from young vines.  

Carinena grape clusters; Photo Credit:

Being in the mountain range, many mesoclimates emerge in Somontano due to the variation of altitudes. Vineyards that are located on high-altitude slopes benefit from intense summer daytime heat and low night-time temperatures, allowing their grapes to strike a balance of residual sugar and acidity. Vineyards at the foothills are cooled by winds traveling down from the mountains, but are also affected by the heat from the hot summer day temperatures that can climb up to 95 Fahrenheit. Unlike the rest of Aragon, Somontano is greener and lusher due to the more frequent and heavier rainfall and an abundance of rivers and creeks intertwined in the region. Enriched soils consists of clay, sandstone and reddish brown soil. Somontano is famed for rustic reds made of Moristel, Parraleta, Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Garnacha, and Syrah. Its whites, Gewurztraminer, Macabeo, and Chardonnay are also fancied by wine lovers.


The climate in Calatayud is continental, with extremely hot and dry summers. This effect, nevertheless, is moderated by the high altitude of vineyards that are situated on the south-facing slopes of the Sierra de la Virgen mountain range. Some of these vineyards reach 2625 ft above sea level. Frosts in extreme winters can set in for months, damaging the vines. Most vineyards sit on loose, rocky soils, and limestone, with naturally good drainage. Due to the harsh climate, yields are typically very low, which adds to the scarcity and quality of the wines. Calatayud is renowned for its big and bold red wines, mostly made from Garnacha grapes. Garnacha represents more than three-quarters of vineyard plantings in this region. Tempranillo and Mazuelo are the other main red varieties, while the region's fresh crisp whites are made of Macabeo, Malvasia and Chardonnay. The Garnacha-based rosado (rose) is also popular in this region.


Campo de Borja's altitude shapes the characteristics of the wines. Vineyards around Pozuelo de Aragon and Magallon, which are low-lying between 1150ft and 1500ft, have Garnacha ripened early and produce structured wines which have higher alcohol. Most of the vines, which are at middle-elevation between 1500ft and 1800ft, are planted on mild slopes with high exposure to the sun, producing juicier and intense wines. The highest vineyards, on the slopes of the Moncayo at elevations of up to 1800ft, are at the coolest climate, and produce wines that are delicate, leaner, and balanced. Rain is scarce throughout Campo de Borja. The vines are susceptive to damages from spring frosts and cold northerly winds. The soils of Campo de Borja, which all provide good drainage and nutrients to the vines, drive its wine styles. The low-lying areas have brown limestone soils. The middle areas' soils are made up of deposited stones and iron-rich clay. The highest elevations, in the Moncayo foothills, are rocky and rich in iron and lime. 


SRP: $10
Grape: red blend, mainly Garnacha 
Palate: Aromas of smoky wood, pencil lead, spice, lavender, black berries, structured, medium-bodied.  
Overall: a table wine that you get the best bang for your buck. It's ideal with a simple red-meat dish such as grilled steaks, beef stir-fried or cubed lamb skewer. 
SRP: $50
Grape: 60% Garnacha, 20% Vidadillo, and 20% Carinena, sourced from a single 100-year-old vineyard 
Palate: black cherry, cinnamon, clove, leather, black licorice, firm tannins, and bright acidity.
Overall: This is a serious red wine that will please a lot of wine lovers. 

SRP: $15
Grape: Garnacha
Palate: mineral, white pepper, lavender, and cherry, excellent depth and grip, and impeccable balance.
Overall: A serious wine at a bargain price 

SRP: $39
Grape: Garnacha
Palate: ripe black fruits, black licorice, smoky wood, and violets, full-bodied, concentrated, and opulent on the palate, a great long finish
Overall: A memorial wine that represents the bold reds of the region 
SRP: $12
Grape: Chardonnay
Palate: apple, peach, fennel, guava, passion fruit, with a tad minerality, fruity, and a long crisp clean finish.
Overall: A unique Chardonnay that pairs well with lightly spicy Asian dishes 

SRP: $16
Grape: Cab Sauvignon
Palate: dark berries, hint of vanilla, bright and vivid acidity despite of the vintage, toasty notes, medium tannins, long and persistent finish
Overall: A wine that goes well with aged cheese will be a crowd pleaser among red wine drinkers

SRP: $14
Grape: Garnacha
Palate: rich, abundance of raspberry, earthy, slightly smoky, a punctuating finish
Overall: A big and flavorful Grenache that goes well with meat stews

SRP: $24
Grape: Garnacha
Palate: cherry preserve, balsamic notes, cocoa and toasty flavors, oaky, rich, velvety, and balance
Overall: A great Grenache that expresses the style of wines from the region 

Let's travel with the rest of the #WorldWineTravel and see where in Aragon they are heading to 


  1. I loved learning about all the DOs of Aragon and I am very appreciative of this list of wines.

  2. Wow....what a great selection of wines you are sharing with us. Thanks so much.

  3. Thanks for the great post, Pinny! So much information to learn.

  4. What a great list of terrific wines, that I would love to try. I find it amazing that with the Garnacha from Calatayud being so rare, that they can sell so much of it at such an affordable price! My two bottles were both under $15.

  5. I've read that Somontano is the most highly regarded of the four DOs, but it looks like you've uncovered worthy examples from all four. Quite the line-up!

  6. What a great round up from the region! Looks like you found some excellent values, and it seems like its a good region for that. Mine was also inexpensive and delivered a lot for the price.

  7. I love the map you found, it shows off the topography so clearly.