For many years, Aragonese wines were used to strengthen weaker wines, both in Spain and abroad. However, in the past few years Araongese wines have managed to dramatically change this stereotype and their reputation in general. The D.O Somontano region lead this revolution during the 90´s with the cultivation of foreign varieties, but now other wine regions, such as the DOCampo de Borja, have discovered the extraordinary possibilities of one of its native varieties: Grenache, one of the most prominent varieties in Spain. It is not in vain that the DO Campo de Borja is considered "the queen of Grenache".
Campo de Borja takes its name from the small town of Borja. Until the fourteenth century, the land of this region belonged to the Borja family, who over time immigrated to Italy where they adopted the surname Borgia. Rodrigo Borgia, a member of the family, became pope under the name of Alexander VI, in 1492
Wine has been produced in the region since the Romans and was exported during the first centuries of the Middle Ages from the Cistercian monastery “Real Monasterio de Santa María de Veruela”, which now houses the Campo de Borja wine museum. The work of monks during the 15th century led to an important development of viticulture. Traditionally, the wineries were located under houses and in mountains next to the municipalities, where some of them still survive today. Initially the majority of wines produced in the area were produced and exported in bulk to blend with wines from other areas and latitudes, and it wasn´t until 1970 that winemakers began to bottle and brand their wines. These early initiatives and the success of the wines led to the constitution of the DO Campo de Borja in 1980. In 1989, the Regulatory Council (Consejo Regulador) permitted only the production of white wines, however in 1991-92, changes were made, increasing the cultivation area to include the Maleján region, as well as allowing the cultivation and production of wines using Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah.
The DO Campo de Borja is located in the Campo de Borja comarca, northwest of the province of Zaragoza (Aragon, Spain), 60 km from the capital. It is a transition zone between the plains of the River Ebro and the mountains of the Sistema Ibérico. The DO currently comprises 16 municipalities and is home to over 8,000 hectares of vineyards.
Like other wine regions within Spain, the DO Campo de Borja is making the advance on improving production with the use of modern winemaking techniques, as well as improving the selection and cultivation of the crops. It is worth mentioning the astonishing progress of the wine quality in the region, due to the wineries efforts to banish the old reputation of Aragonese wine, so often branded as rustic, strong, alcoholic and little seductive.
Notably, the viticultural heritage of DO Campo de Borja is very rich in terms of Grenache, whose oldest vineyards date back to 1145. Over 5,000 hectares of Grenache vineyards are planted in the region, of which over 2,000 are aged between 30 and 50 years. Some of the single-variety reds made using Grenache in the region are enjoying great acclaim worldwide thanks to their strong personality, complexity and quality that really make this a unique wine. If one thing had to define the DO Campo de Borja wines, it would be its unique balance, result of the rich contrast present in the area between old and new, a willing to combine modernity and tradition, resulting in intense wines, with crisp fruit flavours, energy and personality.
Climate, Soils and Varieties
The region is home to a rather accentuated continental climate, with winter Atlantic influences whose most remarkable feature is the northwest wine, cold and very dry. Storms and late frosts are frequent in the area. The average temperature in the region is 14,3º C. Rainfall in the area is low: between 350mm and 450mm, distributed unevenly throughout the year, while the mists from the Ebro provide some additional moisture. The Moncayo Massif plays a decisive role in the area as it favours the existence of a microclimate that greatly influences the character of the wines.
In the lower area of the region, at altitudes of 350-450metres, the soils are brown limestone. This area experiences an earlier maturation and included the vineyards of Magallón, Pozuelo de Aragon, etc. The wines produced here are warm, powerful and very aromatic.
The middle region, where the vineyards are located at altitudes between 450-550 metres, is home to the highest concentration and density of vineyards. The vineyards a planted in terraces and slopes on the La Huecha River, a tributary of the Ebro. The vineyards here are home to gravelly and clay-ferriys soils, and spread over gentle slopes they have good exposure to the sun, which favors complex, intense, structured and fleshy wines.
The highest area, where the vineyards lie at altitudes ranging between 550-700, in the foothills of the Moncayo, the highlands of Ainzón and Fuendejalón, as well as the municipalities of Tabuenca, El Buste, Vera. The wines produced here are where its wines are fine, subtle and elegant.
The most common variety in the DO Campo de Borja is Grenache, accounting for over 80% of the plantation. There are other authorised varieties however including the red varieties: Tempranillo, Mazuela, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah, as well as the white varieties Macabeo, Chardonnay and Muscat in white varieties.
Wines and Wineries from the DO Campo de Borja
The DO Campo de Borja produces all types of wines: whites, reds, rosés, young wines, crianzas, reservas and gran reservas, as well as cava and wines such as muscatels and mistelas. Despite being home to over 8,000 hectares of vineyards, there are only 17 wineries that come under the DO Campo de Borja, with almost half of which are cooperatives.
One of the cooperatives worth mentioning is Bodegas Aragonesas, founded in 1984 as the result of a merge between the cooperatives San Juan Bautista de Fuendejalón and Santo Cristo de Magallon. Home to over 3,500 hectares of vineyards located in Magallón and Fuendejalón, most of which cultivate Grenache, the cooperative accounts for nearly 60% of the denomination. The cooperative has a new phone in the town centre of Fuendejalón, spanning 18,000 square metres, it has two production facilities, and a third for ageing and bottling, a true symbol of a winery in good health. The cooperative began producing wine in bulk, but has managed to overturn this reputation, producing quality wines sold in Spain and internationally. They excel in their single variety qines, including Garnacha Coto de Hayas Garnacha Centenaria, aged in new French oak barrels on its lees for 4 months and Fagus Coto de Hayas, aged in new French oak barrels for 10 months.
Borsao Wineries, founded in 2000 from the merge of the cooperatives of Borja, Pozuelo and Tabuenca, and is distinguished as one of the most active and producers of the region, constantly striving for the best image and quality. Bodegas Borsao is home to Se abastece de unas 2.300 hectáreas de Garnacha, Tempranillo y Cabernet Sauvignon, procedentes de los 700 agricultores. 2,300 hectares of vineyards, cultivating Garnacha, Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon, from 700 farmers. The winery produces wines under the labels Borsao, Gran Campellas, Señor Atares and Viña Borgia, another line of young and fruity wines. The Borsao label is composed of a range of young and crianza wines, where the young wine, a blend of Grenache and Cabernet, is the flagship of the winery and its most popular wine on the international scene. Another standout wine is the Borsao Tres Picos, made using Grenache grapes taking from 40-45 year old vines. It is a very concentrated wine, with aromas of ripe red fruit with floral nuances, typical of the best Grenache. The palate is rich, silky, with fine wood and merged it’s fruity, almost sweetness’s tannins that enhance a final very savory full of sensations.
Bodegas Alto Moncayo was founded in 2002 and is a warehouse of reduced dimensions. The winery old makes wines using native grenache grapes from old vines between 40 and 100 years. Alto Moncayo are very clear that a wine must have style, personality, character, that "something" mysterious and sometimes subtle, that makes them so different from each other, so they produce only three wines. The Aquilon, which is the jewel in the crown, using both the best plots as the best barrels of each plot, the wine is aged for 24 months in new barrels. A powerful and extensive wine in the mouth, fleshy, fresh with great concentration of flavour and excellent balance. His other wine is the Alto Moncayo, and is the flagship of the winery, aged in barrels for 20 months. It is a wine that has a remarkably complex nose with aromas of black fruit, balsamic, toasted and a very good structure in the mouth. Its newest wine is the Veraton, aged for 16 months, a wine with an attractive collection of balsamic notes, chocolate and black fruit, very warm in the mouth and extremely pleasant finish.
Pagos del Moncayo is a relatively young winery led by Pedro Aibar, former winemaker of Viñas del Vero, and his family. The winery produces El Prados Fusion, a blend of Grenache and Syrah, which highlights the tones of red fruit and typical Mediterranean forest of Grenache and Syrah jams, with a silky palate, easy to understand and enjoy. El Prados Colección Garnacha, a varietal with 10 months aging in barrels, aroma of red fruit and licorice on a background of vanilla and coffee provided by its barrel aging; dense, balanced with good volume and round tannins. El Prados Colección Syrah, with vineyards area of La Loma and 10 months of aging, it is a friendly and tasty wine with deep aromas of wild fruits and violets, cassis, plum jam, black currant and blackberry, black olives and truffles; powerful, full-bodied, silky texture. And finally Prados Colección Privé, a blend of Syrah and Grenache with 12 months in the barrel, with fresh aromas of thyme, rosemary and pure ripe fruit Prados.