Aragon is an autonomía, or autonomous region, in the northeast of Spain. It is bordered to the north by the Pyrenées Mountains and on either side by the prime wine regions of Catalonia and La Rioja. Viticulture dates back centuries and was closely linked to monastery life.
Aragon contains four Denominaciones deOrigen (DOs): Campo de Borja, Cariñena, Calatayud, and Somontano.
Historically, the kingdom of Aragón was little different than any other Spanish autonomous kingdom, all having experienced Moorish conquest during the eighth and ninth centuries AD. Yet by the twelfth century, as Arabic forces retreated south, Aragón had begun to establish itself as a major empire, even drawing Sardinia, Naples, and Sicily into its folds. This power was consolidated further when the royal prince Ferdinand of Aragón married Isabella of Castile. This was the royal court that funded the voyage of Christopher Columbus to establish colonies in the new world, a quest which highlighted Aragón’s competitive presence on the international stage.
This chapter of Aragónese history is credited as being a highly tolerant period, one that welcomed all cultures into its fabric. Aragón had easy access to France and the rest of Europe, and it was through this gateway that French cultural influences would flow. One example is the widespread architectural use of the Romanesque style, which characterizes many of the cathedrals and monasteries along the route of the Santiago de Compostela. Another major architectural style is Modejo, of which the best examples are found in the town of Daroca. This Arabic style is typified by brickwork bell towers and glazed ceramic styles.
In terms of geography, it is difficult to generalize about a region like Aragón. Features range from mountainous, walled towns in the northeast (many of which did not even see a motor vehicle for the first time until the late 20th century) to stretches of plains in the southwest around. These geographical variations also translate into a wealth of different tourist attractions, from sports and hunting to admiring art at the various ethnic museums.
Classic Aragonese cuisine includes lamb, sausage, trout, cod, and the specialties blood pudding and garlic soup, all of which pair well with the rich reds of the region.
Aragon has a hot, continental climate that is a continuation of Rioja’s Baja zone. Its soil is largely composed of chalk and clay, and many of the vineyards are planted along the limestone-rich foothills of the Sierra del Moncayo.
This region is best known for rich and intensely fruity reds, and to a lesser extent rosados (rosés), made from Garnacha. Other grapes used include Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, and Mazuela. White wine is less common, produced from Viura, Macabeo, and Moscatel. Because these wines receive less attention than the big names to the north and east, wines from this region offer excellent value.