Dec 25: At a Masterclass organised by Mundusvini during the last day of judging courtesy Wines of Spain (ICEX), which was very educative with 6 wines from the relatively new DO of Campo de Borja showcased, including Tres Picos from Borsao imported by Agnetta International in Gurgaon. This is an area offering the best of Garnacha from Aragon region, writes Subhash Arora who was one of the international judges attending the Masterclass and loved the wines poured at Vinothek Par Terre
DO Campo de Borja is in Zaragoza, in the region of Aragon in the North-eastern part of Spain, also described as PDO- Denominaciones de Origen Protegida (Protected Denominations of Origin). It has been written about in 1203 but this area in the southern part of Navarra has been making this wine using Garnacha as the principal grape by monks for almost 3 centuries, right up to the 19th century. The monastery also replanted and grafted the vines after phylloxera. During the period of Arabic rule, the production was curtailed drastically but with conquest by Christian forces, production increased again. Today it is one of the best known areas of producing Garnacha (Grenache) and locals call it El Imperio de la Garnacha (the Empire of Garnacha) because of the wines being concentrated, complex, powerful and very aromatic.
The area was recognised as DO Campo de Borja in 1980, named after an influential family of the area. It encompasses 16 municipalities including Borja. Authorized red grapes are Garnacha which is the primary grape with 50% crops devoted to it and generally 30-50 year old vines giving very concentrated vines with very low yield as low as 2 tons/acre. Other authorised varieties are Tempranillo, Manzuelo (Carignan), Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. Macabeo (Viura), Moscatel and Chardonnay are the only white grapes permitted to be used in the DO.
The climate is continental with cold and dry winds influencing the weather in winter. Otherwise, in summer there is Mediterranean influence. Annual rainfall is very low, between 350-450 mm. The vineyards are planted on a series of high plateaus at heights ranging between 350 m and 750 m above sea level.
The quality and characteristics of the DO Campo de Borja is due to the altitude of vineyards. In the lower altitudes of 350-450m temperatures are the highest. Garnacha ripens early, producing structured wines with alcohol levels that may be higher. The middle elevations where most of the vines are planted on gentle slopes of the Sierra de Moncayo mountains with high exposure to the sun, the grapes grown produce intense wines with plenty of extract and character. The highest vineyards, on the slopes of the Moncayo have the coolest temperatures and wines show finesse, more complexity, subtlety and good balance.
There were 6 wines for guided tastings, each with its own story and stretching across the whole DO. My interest was piqued especially as I saw Tres Picos from Bodega Borsao in the line up. Other wines are not being imported into India yet but this one is being distributed by Agnetta International exclusively and I had tasted the 2015 vintage before. It had been a delicious full bodied wine but not at its freshest best. Therefore, I focused more on this wine for this Article.
Bodega Borsao is situated a cooperative in Borja (Zaragoza) and was founded in 1957, before the region it was elevated to the status of DO. Private wineries came into existence in the area in 1800’s but the difficult economic conditions in the 1950s forced several producers and growers to come together and form co-operatives. Bodega Borsao was one of the six and a well-recognised producer of Garnacha (Grenache) in the world.
Borsao was the first winery in the area to make Tres Picos, their signature wine-with 100% Garnacha and has never looked back ever since. Grapes come from 35-60 year old vines that grow at the highest altitude in the area. After fermentation in the steel tank, wine undergoes barrel ageing for 5-6 months in French Barriques.
Tres Picos has intense black cherry red colour, with perfumed nose of black fruits like plums and black olives with notes of tobacco, vanilla and some floral hints. It is well rounded dry wine with soft and ripe tannins and balanced acidity and a long and spicy end. It opens up nicely in the glass- I recommend 30-60 minutes of decanting though.
The full-bodied and bold wine with alcohol content at a slightly higher level of 15%, would be ideal with beef steak or Sikandri Raan or a rack of lamb but with certain chicken preparations it would also be a good match. Aubergine parmesan and mushroom dishes are a natural match for vegetarian dishes. Even pasta-based dishes with red sauce-especially Bolognaise, would find it a very pleasant match; so would Lasagne.
With about 150,000 bottles produced every year, it is one of the best-if not the best value for money wine available in Retail at Rs. 2700, if one can find it. Several 5-star hotels including Oberoi Delhi and Hyatt have listed it in their Menus as the go-to red wine; also available by the glass. If you like bold and beautiful wines –especially Grenache-based full-bodied wines with softer tannins and low prices, it would be difficult to find another one like Tres Picos from Bodega Borsao.
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