Campo de Borja: Spain's "Empire of Garnacha"

I must admit, I didn't know much about Campo de Borja when I first read about the results of this year's San Francisco International Wine Competition.  I was surprised to learn that Masia de Bielsa's 2007 Garnacha won the "Best Grenache" award – quite an honor for a $12 bottle of wine from a DO with only 17 wineries.

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As I started to read about Campo de Borja, I discovered that I did, indeed, know something – in fact, a fair amount – about this part of Spain.  Campo de Borja is part of the region of Aragon, the home of Henry VIII of England's first wife, Catherine, and her mother, Spain's famous Queen Isabella.  Campo de Borja once belonged to the Borja family, one of Spain's most famous noble clans.  You'll recognize the name when you read the Italianized version – Borgia.  Borja Popes and their infamous relatives had great influence throughout Renaissance Europe.

Campo de Borja Wine History
Winemaking predates the Borja family by several centuries.  Documentation from the Veruela Monastery indicates that wines were made in Campo de Borja as early as the late 12th century, possibly much earlier.  The Cistercian monks of Veruela bought up vineyards in the surrounding area and expanded wine production accordingly.  Garnacha is native to the DO, and winemakers have traditionally focused their attention on the indigenous garnacha grapes.  Today the region is dotted with vineyards, many of them small, but Campo de Borja has only 17 wineries.  Several of these wineries are cooperatives; some also produce olive oil and food products.

Climate and Soil
Campo de Borja's continental climate comes with a unique twist, the "cierzo" wind that blows cold, dry air down from the northwest.  As you would expect, summers are very hot and winters are cold.  Temperatures can vary widely – Campo de Bierzo has recorded high temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit and lows below 20 degrees.  The region doesn't get much rain.

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Campo de Borja lies between the Sierra de Moncayo mountain and the Ebro River valley.  The area consists mainly of high plateaus and hills. Limestone soils predominate in Campo de Borja, but there are some areas with clay soils near the Sierra de Montayo. Drainage is generally good.