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In the shadow of the mighty Pyrenees mountains in north-east Spain, we find the beautiful and unique region of Aragon. Aragon is a former kingdom and a Spanish community with its own fierce, independent spirit, where people take huge pride in their history and culture, and this shines through in the wine production which takes place here and results in some of Spain’s best and most distinctive wines. One of the things which typifies Aragon and sets it apart from some of the other wine regions of Spain is its huge range of landscapes and climatic conditions. The mountains which form a border between Spain and France create a set of microclimates, which cause huge variation from one sub-region to the next, and within Aragon you can find both sub-zero temperatures in the foothills of the mountains, and scorching heat on the desert plains of Monegros. As such, we end up with a set of wines which swings between radically different flavor profiles and features, making it a truly fascinating region to explore.
Aragon is split into four DOs (designation of origin) sub-regions, each identified for their excellence and unique contribution to the quality of Spanish wine and viticultural identity. These DOs each come with their own strict sets of rules and regulations, dictating which grape varietals are permitted to be grown, how long each wine type should be aged for, and things like the alcohol content minimums in each wine. This helps to standardize quality for the region, and ensures that the wines produced there are worthy of bearing the name of their DO in the bottle.
The four DOs of Aragon are: Somontano, the most famous and widely respected DO in this part of Spain, DO Carinena, DO Calatayud, and DO Campo de Borja.
The purple skinned grapes of the Grenache varietal have quickly become one of the most widely planted red wine grapes in the world, flourishing in several countries which have the correct conditions in which they can grow to ripeness. They thrive anywhere with a dry, hot climate, such as that found in central Spain and other such arid areas, and produce delightfully light bodied wines full of spicy flavors and notes of dark berries. Their robustness and relative vigor has led them being a favorite grape varietal for wineries all over the world, and whilst it isn't uncommon to see bottles made from this varietal alone, they are also regularly used as a blending grape due to their high sugar content and ability to produce wines containing a relatively high level of alcohol.
Ever since the Phoenicians and Romans brought their knowledge of vine cultivation to Spanish soils, the country's culture has grown alongside wine production, with wine being a vital part of Spanish identity and Spanish traditions. Each region of Spain has a wine quite distinct from the others, and it is produced by smallholders and families as much as it is by large companies and established wineries. From the relatively mild and lush regions of La Rioja to the arid plateaus that surround Madrid, grapes are grown in abundance for the now booming Spanish wine industry, and new laws and regulations have recently been put in place to keep the country's standards high. By combining traditional practices with modern technology, Spanish wineries are continuing to produce distinctive wines of great character, flavor and aroma, with the focus shifting in recent decades to quality over quantity.