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Aragón region of Spain. A combination of the region's high altitude and arid climate provides ideal conditions for producing some of Spain's finest Garnacha. The broad diurnal shift produces significantly cooler evening temperatures, allowing the grapes to reach full ripeness levels while still maintaining good lift and freshness. The red iron-rich soils are studded with layers of loose rock, sand, and gravel, and this soil combination does an outstanding job of preserving the region's precious moisture.
Bodegas Cooperativa Virgen de la Sierra has been making wine in the Calatayud for more than 100 years. Six hundred families take part in the Co-op, and over the years, the vineyard holdings have grown to more than 700 hectares. The land in this Co-op has been passed down in local families for generations, and there is an amazing sense of pride and quality that drives all aspects of production.
Co-op wines are often ignored by the wine press and snubbed by collectors in favor of estate grown and bottled wines. I've learned over the years that while most estate wines are indeed quality-driven, so are carefully chosen Cooperative wines. In some cases, the Co-op is the local economy's driving force, and dozens if not hundreds of families depend on it for income. In most cases, the well-made Co-op wine is the bargain when compared to similar quality estate wines.
Bodega Cooperativa Virgen De La Sierra is a perfect example of a Co-op that does everything right. They balance an ideal blend of old school tradition in the vineyards and the best of modern technology in the winery. There's no use of chemicals or pesticides on the vines, and there's a bare minimum of intervention at the winery. Grapes are harvested and sorted by hand, and growers are paid based on their grapes' quality, not on quantity.
The Co-op at Virgen De La Sierra operates with a level of integrity far beyond the average Co-op; however, they have a secret weapon that genuinely defines their wine: the grapes are harvested from 70 to 100-year-old vines. These knarled old vines produce a minuscule yield that is absolutely magnificent in density, nuance, and extraction.
When you get this one into your glass, you'll see why everyone is in love with this wine. On the nose, you're greeted with aromas of toasty blueberry and berry compote. The real action starts on the palate — dark berry, blueberry, baking spice, and vanilla mingle with hints of coffee and mocha on the finish. There's a lot going on with this wine and as it gets a little air, it really starts to come alive. There's a ton of fruit, however, it's no lollipop — the ample tannin allows one to enjoy this with a steak, yet it's smooth and supple enough to sip on the porch.
James Suckling – 93 Points
"Enveloping nose of blue fruit and impressive concentration on the palate of this expressive Garnacha. Lovely, creamy texture, in spite of a healthy dose of tannin, the long finish leaves you in no doubt. Drink or hold."
"Dark ruby color with shades of purple. Sexy and silky palate, spice-accented blackberry and cherry aromas and a brilliant ruby color with violet notes. This distinctly[sic] Garnacha wine finishes with excellent length and warm tannins"