The SOMM Journal

December 2014/January 2015

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{ }  1 17 CALATAYUD It's all about red wine in Calatayud, 92% of total production. Garnacha Tinta is the leading variety at 58%. The majority of Calatayud wine is exported. Calatayud has Spain's highest Garnacha vineyards at 2,950 feet and its latest Garnacha har - vest. The area is generally warm and windy during the growing season. Frost is the most significant viticultural risk, but there has been none in a decade and no mildew since 1988. Calatayud is the only D.O. in Spain to legally define Viñas Viejas (old vines): 35 years minimum. The law also limits their yield to 1.8 tons/acre, 36% lower than allowed tonnage for younger red grape vines. Hallmarks of Calatayud Garnacha Tinta are red and/or black cherry fruit, saline minerality and, sometimes, dark spicy oak. The Altovinum 2013 Evodia Old Vines Garnacha, co- created and imported by Grenache guru Eric Solomon of European Cellars, is engagingly fruity and ready-to-drink. It gathers complexity from its 80- to 100-year-old vines but only 5% of the wine sees oak. Rich, slightly tart red and black cherry is the focus with cherry leaf, spicy purple flowers, dark chocolate and graph - ite minerality in support. At just $10 retail, it's an astonishing value. The savory Las Rocas 2012 Garnacha Viñas Viejas ($18, imported by Gallo) is made from similarly aged vines but at higher altitudes and is 100% oak aged for 12 months. Dense black cherry marries with charcoal, charred herb and dark, salty minerality. Full-bodied with plenty of light-grained and chalky tannins, it wants well-marbled steak off the grill or an hour of decanting. SOMONTANO Somontano, "foot of the mountain," lies in the pre-Pyrenees. Yet, due to the ruggedness of the mountains and relatively short daylight hours at 42 degree latitude, its vineyards don't reach the altitudes of Calatayud. Just 30% of Somontano wine is exported and Garnacha makes up just 5% of total production. That's on the rise though. Producers see Garnacha as one of their best chances to break into the U.S. market. The Viñas del Vero 2011 La Miranda Secastilla ($14, imported by Vin Divino) is just the wine to drive American buying. Opaquely ruby, full-bod - ied and chewy, its flavors of leather, blackberry, garrigue, spice and tangy herb are captivating. The 2009, 2010, 2012 and not-yet-released 2013 vintages are also quite good. Another winner is the Batán de Salas 2012 Garnacha ($12, imported by Vinamericas). The nose offers wild, earthy blackberries, fresh suede, raspberry sorbet and vanilla. The pal - ate is nearly full-bodied and adds chocolate, dry earth and dark minerality. CAMPO DE BORJA Brisk Cierzo winds from the northwest prevent mildew and rot late in the growing season. Campo de Borja's Continental climate is also moderated somewhat by the Mediterranean during the early growing season. Average vineyard size in Campo de Borja is just 1.5 acres. 30+-year-old vines and manual harvests are common. To minimize green flavors, the target is slightly raisined, jammy fruit that generates alcohol of 14–14.5%. These efforts show in the wines' consistently high quality. Common flavors include violets, plum, caramel, black truffle and olive. In 1986, Bodegas Aragonesas became the first producer to export Spanish Garnacha to the U.S. Their newest wine, Don Ramón 2012 Garnacha Imperial Roble—that wine's first vintage—is yet another example of the value available from Aragón. For $11 you get a full-bodied, long and balanced wine with notes of smoky mineral, salty black cherry, blackberry, dry herb, tar and black olive. The Don Ramón 2012 Garnacha Centenaria ($15) is even more savory and structured. Look for licorice, black cherry leather, black truffle, dried lavender, salty minerality and ferrous earth. Both are imported by Scoperta Importing. For an unoaked representation of Campo de Borja, try the Santo Cristo 2012 Selección Garnacha ($10, imported by Siema Wines). It's medium-plus in body and softly chewy with flavors of black cherry, licorice, grape and blackberry sodas, granite dust and Kalamata olives. The balance of fruit, tannins and alcohol is very good. CARIÑENA Winemaking in Cariñena has been recognized since at least the early 15th century, when King Ferdinand I of Aragón issued a proclamation placing these wines on his preferred list of royal food and drink. Although the region gave its name to the grape Cariñena, or Carignan, today it is old, gnarled old-vine Garnacha that is the star of the Cariñena D.O.P. The Corona de Aragón Special Selection ($14, imported by Steve Miles Selections) is a beautifully balanced blend of Garnacha and Cariñena grapes. The Castillo de Monséran Old Vine Garnacha ($16, imported by TGIC Importers), from 50-year-old vines and made at large cooperative Bodegas San Valero, is an exemplary version of old-vine Garnacha from Cariñena, with deep ruby hue, a nose of ripe strawberries and soft herbal overtones. As with other wines from Aragón, these bottles represent exceptional value for the money. For more on the wines of Cariñena, see the June 2014 issue of our sister publication, THE TASTING PANEL. —Ed. Aragón's Denominaciónes de Origen Protegidas (D.O.P.s)

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