DO Calatayud and Borja May 2023
It is 12 years since we last visited Calatayud and the Wine Society has never organized a visit to Campo de Borja.
Calatayud is a city in Aragón, some 90 kms west of Zaragoza and the second largest city in the Province. The city was founded on the site of a Celt-Iberian settlement by the Romans but the modern town was founded by the Moors around the Ayyub castle around 716 AD. The name Calatayud comes from the Arabic Qal’at ‘Ayyub – Ayyub’s Fort.
The cultivation of vines in this region goes back to the second century BC. During the Muslim occupation wine production was ceased but began again after the Reconquista. In the 12th century Cistercian Monks began growing vines and producing wine at the Monasterio de Piedra.
Returning to this area we incorporated a visit to DO Campo de Borja where some interesting developments have taken place. These two DO’s are the home of the Garnacha grape.
Based in the ancient town of Calatayud we visited 3 bodegas in the Calatayud DO and two in the DO of Campo de Borja.
Bodegas San Alejandro, DO Calatayud
Founded in 1962 by a group of 150 wine growers, this bodega produces excellent wines and have progressively improved their quality and offering with average rating by Peñin at 90+ points. Some of you will have enjoyed wines from their range which can be purchased in the Costa Blanca. We last visited this bodega 13 years ago in 2010. They have developed an impressive visitors centre for the wine tourist together with a special dining area to host events.
We tasted 3 wines on this visit.
Bodegas Aragonesas, DO Camp de Borja
The DO of Campo de Borja was established in 1980 and although Bodegas Aragonesas was founded in 1984, the cultivation of the vines – particularly Garnacha – stems from 1145 and the Cistercian monks of the Monastery of Veruela, located a short distance from Fuendejalón and Magallón. They have constructed an impressive modern bodega which was opened in 2022.
Here we tasted 5 wines with the 3 Garnacha reds aged in French oak for several months. These wine are good to drink in some cases up to 8 years.
Bodegas Borsao, DO Campo de Borja
Bodegas Borsao has been the engine for DO Campo de Borja, or the ‘Empire of the Garnacha’. Robert Parker has called it his favourite value bodega, not only in Spain, but in the world – high praise indeed!
This is an impressive modern Bodega with a team working to achieve a high standard of Garnacha Wines. Their new installations replace the original buildings in the centre of the small town of Borja.
We enjoyed a tasting of 4 of their wines and a tapas lunch of local specialities.
The tasting room was a state of the art sala with impressive views to the mountains and Maria Sancho our host for the visit gave a very professional tasting finishing with their flagship Garnacha red Tres Picos. Again the majority of the reds can be drunk for several years having been aged in Oak.
This bodega has an interesting history. Founded in 2010 it is part of a group owned by the famous Winemaker Jorge Ordoñez. Jorge pioneered the introduction of the Garnacha grape into the US in the 1990’s. He spends around 3 months of the year in the US – we tried to get him to meet us but he is over there in May and June. We did however, meet his Winemaker Jose Carlos Rios.
The wines we tasted were all tintos as they do not produce blancos. The setting for our tasting was outside the bodega and on arrival we could see oak barrels each with interesting large glasses reputed to hold 1 litre!
Jose Carlos explained that Jorge Ordoñez visits each of his bodegas throughout Spain and personally supervises the final decision on the development of these wines to achieve the highest quality possible. We were not disappointed with these 3 stunning wines cultivated with caring attention by the bodega team.
A Quote from Robert Parker “Just when you think you’ve tasted the world’s greatest value wines, along comes the Bodegas Breca”
Bodegas Raices Ibericas
This is a unique and interesting operation focussing on innovation and creativity.
The original winery was a Cooperative and was purchased by a Belgian wine business 3 years ago. They also have agreements with several Bodegas to manage and buy certain grape varieties throughout Spain which are hardly known and, under the control of their Winemaker Carlos Ruben, are producing unique wines. The bodega name Raices is Spanish for roots and is very applicable for this project.
We tasted 7 different varieties in the Bodega hosted by Leanne from France who also presented some interesting facts on the Spanish Wine Market. This project is bold and innovative and it will be interesting to see how their business develops over the next 5 years.
There is no doubt that the Garnacha grape has developed well in this area with all 5 bodegas exporting on average 70 to 80% of their production. In each Bodega we experienced a different approach to their business and the quality of their wines tasted was borne out by the large quantity of wine everyone bought!
The Wine Trip Team always tries to include a cultural visit/activity and a visit to Monastario de Piedra was organised. This did not disappoint. There is a spectacular natural park with many waterfalls and interesting walks, also the Monastery provided the peace and history of this beautiful location. https://monasteriopiedra.com/?lang=en
An excellent trip enjoyed by everyone, including the 10 members for whom this was their first Wine Trip.