Aragon

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Aragon is one of the 17 autonomous communities of Spain. Located in the country's north, it stretches from the imposing Pyrenees mountains south to the expansive central Iberian plateau. To the east of Aragon lies Catalonia, while La Rioja, Castilla y Leon and Navarra are its neighbours to the west.

Aragon encompasses the eastward-flowing Ebro River and its vast valley, the river being one of the largest and most important in Spain. The waterway also divides Aragon's wine regions, with Somontano occupying the north and three smaller regions located further south.

The historic city of Zaragoza, is the capital of the autonomous community and accounts for around half of its population, leaving the remainder of the region sparsely populated and largely untamed. Aragon, preceded by the mighty medieval Kingdom of Aragon, is thought to have been named after the River Aragon, which flows through the region. Alternatively, the name may be derived from the Basque word Aragoi, meaning "high valley".

Aragon is, in a word, diverse. Edged by mountains at either end, the landscape varies from snow-capped mountains (in the north), parched plains (to the south) and green hills (in between).

The blend of old and new in Aragon is evident in a number of ways. Zaragoza, for example, houses medieval relics, such as the magnificent Basilica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar (Basilica of our Lady of the Pillar), as well as arrestingly modern architecture including the Zaragoza Pavilion Bridge. The region's wines are no different, and combine ancient native varieties such as Moristel with recent international imports such as Cabernet Sauvignon. Investment in modern winemaking equipment has been critical to the region's recent revival and lighter, fresher styles.

Climatically, Aragon is a land of extremes. Overall, it can be termed as moderate continental, with altitude acting as the main determinant. The Pyrenees and other areas of elevated topography in the north are cooler, as are parts of the south. The altitude of the vineyards here can be anywhere from 1,640ft to 3,280ft (500–1,000m). In the middle of the region, the altitude falls to 650ft (200m). Such a diverse range of grape growing conditions means that Aragon's wines are extremely versatile in style.

Large co-operatives still play a significant role in producing Aragon's traditional wines. These typically were sold in bulk, but are now bottled and are mainly reds based on the Garnacha grape. Other prominent red wine varieties include Carinena and Tempranillo.

The region's promise and profile have been raised since the inclusion of a Cava producing zone within its limits, the accession of four areas to DO status and the prestigious designation of a vineyard as a VP (Vino de Pago).
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