On a trip to Aragón a few years ago, we had the opportunity to delve into the wines of this somewhat isolated Spanish region. Basing ourselves in the historic city Zaragoza, we visited vineyards and wineries to obtain an overview of the area, the land (where rainfall is in short supply) and the varied faces of Garnacha. One in particular made by an enthusiastic trio grabbed my attention: Bodegas Frontonio.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The #WorldWineTravel group investigates Aragón this month hosted by Wendy at A Day In The Life On The Farm. A very dry and arid area, it’s Spain’s most depopulated with just 28 inhabitants per square kilometer versus 93 for the whole of Spain. It’s also home to very old Garnacha vines, some owned by Frontonio. To read other articles related to Aragón, please find links at the end.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
So Where the Heck Are We?
The Iberian Peninsula, in Southern Europe just southwest of France. It’s surrounded to the west by the Atlantic Ocean and to the east by the Mediterranean, upon which there are two countries: Portugal and Spain.
Digging deeper, the Aragón region is in the north-eastern part of the country, along the way from Barcelona to Rioja. It’s bisected by the Ebro River.
Much of the vineyard land along the Ebro valley depression is warm and dry during the growing season with cooling at night. Known as a cold and dry wind, the Cierzo blows through, although my experience of it was rather warm. Overall the climate is moderate continental with minimal rain, just 13 inches annually (330 millimeters) on average.
And finally in Aragón, we find Valdejalón, which was awarded Viño de la Tierra or VT rather recently: 1999. I could barely find information on this small VT let alone Aragón itself. It’s arguably the least well known area in Aragón!
Meanwhile, back in Zaragoza we were so close to Valdejalón VT, located just 10 miles away along the Jalón River. We almost touched it exploring other Aragón DOs during our trip (Spain’s equivalent of an appellation): DOs Campo de Borja, Calatayud, Cariñena, and Somontano.
It took us an afternoon exploring Zaragoza until we finally touched a bottle from Valdejalón VT. A small wine shop we strolled into saw my interest in Garnacha and recommended a bottle from Bodegas Frontonio.
The merchant shared that a Master of Wine and a few friends were making a small amount of wine in a garage not too far from Zaragoza, some of the best he’d seen in a while and working the land naturally without chemicals. He told us the area from which it came, Valdejalón, makes white, rosé, and red wine from a variety of grapes but mostly from Garnacha Tinto. We brought that bottle home with us.
Fast-forward a few years, a few moves, and a wine rack catastrophe in which the bottle survived- we finally opened it.
So many aromas on this wine made from 50+ year old vines farmed and made with minimal intervention more synergistically: almost pronounced brambly ripe strawberries, prunes, red and black cherries, hints of barnyard mustiness and dried herbs. It’s dry with zippy acidity and smooth well-integrated tannins on a high-toned palate loaded with pomegranate and red raspberries. I do say one elegant and polished wine with surprising depth, texture and a long, lingering sensation of crushed stones. Price: 11€ / $17
Above I mentioned Aragón is the most depopulated area in Spain. It’s a rural, barren land that saw the offspring of those who worked it move out. As the older generation either could no longer tend to their vines or passed on, many old Garnacha vineyards ended up abandoned or pulled out and replanted with different grape varieties, almonds or cherry trees. A large percentage of old Garnacha Tinta vines were lost not only in Valdejalón but Aragón.
It’s people like Fernando Mora MW and his partners at Bodegas Frontonio who are saving them now in Valdejalón.
Wine Pairing: Garbanzos con Espinacas (recipe at bottom)
- 2015 Vinos del Viento Cariñena + Pulled Pork Sandwiches by ENOFYLZ Wine Blog
- A Tale of Garnacha, Exploring Aragon by Avvinare
- Aragón by Tabletop: Arroz Aragonés + 2015 Vinos del Viento Cariñena by Culinary Adventures with Camilla
- Aragon’s Carinena and Castles + Olive Anchovy Sammies by Wine Predator
- Calatayud, Aragon Wines: Evodia + Fully Loaded Pork Taquitos by Our Good Life
- Campo De Borja: The Empire of Garnacha by My Full Wine Glass
- Cooking to the Wine: Vinos del Viento Cariñena with Smoky Octopus, Bacon Smashed Potatoes, and Romesco Sauce by Somm’s Table
- Exploring Aragon via Plate and Glass by Food Wine Click!
- Exploring the Kingdom of Aragon and Its Wines by Crushed Grape Chronicles
- Fountains of Wine in the Land of Kings by Children of the Grape
- Heading to Aragón and Valdejalón with Bodegas Frontonio by Savor the Harvest
- Learning Spain – Aragon’s Four Wine Regions: Carinena, Somontano, Calatayud, and Campo De Borja Through Eight Wines by Chinese Food and Wine Pairings
- Two Bottles of Lovely Wine from a Lovely Area by A Day in the Life on the Farm
- 2½ (14 oz / 400 grams) cups cooked chickpeas
- 1 medium-sized onion, chopped into smaller pieces
- ½ to ¾ cup carrots, chopped into smaller pieces
- ½ cup English peas
- 10 ounces / 300 grams fresh spinach (or Swiss chard leaves)
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon (2 grams) smoked Spanish paprika
- ½ teaspoon (1 gram) cumin powder
- ½ cup vegetable or chicken stock
- 3 tablespoons (45 ml) extra virgin olive oil
- Poached eggs (we used two, one each)
- 2 to 3 strips of Serrano ham, crisped in the oven and broken into pieces. (I used thick bacon, cut into thin strips and crisped on the stove as I didn’t have Serrano.)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- handful of cilantro, freshly chopped
- a few wedges of fresh lemon
- Rinse chickpeas and pat dry.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large sauté pan over medium. Add the onion and carrot; cook until soft (3-5 minutes) then stir in half of the garlic.
- Add the chickpeas, smoked paprika, cumin powder, and a pinch of salt and pepper; stir to combine.
- Add the stock and English peas, stir then let cook a few minutes until the stock is reduced by about ¾s.
- Turn to low and cover while you cook the spinach.
- Add about 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a sauté pan over medium heat. Once warm, add the garlic and spinach; stir frequently to wilt. Season with salt to taste and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
- Assembly: Divide the spinach onto 2 plates. Top with the chickpeas and a poached egg. Sprinkle crisped Serrano (or bacon) and cilantro over the top.