The SOMM Journal

December 2014/January 2015

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116 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } DECEMBER/JANUARY 2014/2015 { spain } ¡Viva THE OLDER, THE BETTER FOR ARAGÓN'S VIÑAS VIEJAS by Fred Swan, CS "HERE, WATER IS EVERYTHING," said my host, Dr. Luis Miguel Albisu of the Center for Agro-Food Research and Technology of Aragón. It is a dry, dry region. The land is beautiful, but spare: pastel hues of tan, olive and russet color gently rolling vistas of bare earth, dry grasses and scrub. Here and there, mas - sive Osborne black bulls stand sentry on roadside hilltops, as if scanning the horizon for promising clouds. Few soils in Aragón hold water, but they let vine roots easily dive deep for moisture. Irrigation is allowed, though tightly regulated. In practice, very few vineyards have access to water anyway. Just weeks before harvest, I surveyed the Garnacha vineyards, and the wines, of Aragón's four Denominaciónes de Origen Protegidas (D.O.P.s): Calatayud, Campo de Borja, Somontano and Cariñena. Five hundred thousand acres of Garnacha Tinta, aka Grenache Noir, exist in the world. Half are in France, and Aragón, believed to be Garnacha's point of origin, is Spain's standard bearer. A taste of Garnacha off the vine reveals crunchy blue grapes bursting with tangy flavors and juicy sweetness. When fully ripe, bunches on old bush vines are gen - tly removed by hand and placed in small harvest bins. Increasingly, in part due to new EU guidelines, replanted vines are trellised. Their fruit is shaken off by mechanical harvesters. Garnacha grapes oxidize rapidly, so a few producers begin fermentations in closed-top, stainless tanks at the vineyards. Most ferry fruit in refriger - ated trucks to the winery—a cooperative more often than not, since growers/ vineyards here can outnumber produc- ers 50 to one. Saignée-style rosé juice still runs from some tanks of Garnacha Tinta, but much less than in decades past. Full-on red wine brings a higher price and wine styles here are very much market-driven. The vast majority of Garnacha enjoys an extended cold soak then fermenta - tion in cooled tanks of gleaming stain- less. Afterward, the fresh, new wine may experience any of myriad aging regimes: from none to more than two years, unoaked to 100% wooded, French and/ or American barrels, new to twice-used, sometimes chips. Regardless of style or region, Aragón Garnacha delivers value. Gnarled old- vine Garnacha is the mainstay of winemaking in Aragón. ¡Viva ¡Viva Garnacha!

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