Cuevas de Arom is a new project led by friends Fernando Mora MW and Mario López, based in Calatayud. The project’s aim is to redefine the style of the region and produce an elegant and fresh expression of Garnacha. In their search for Spain’s finest and forgotten plantings of Garnacha, the project became a joint venture with Bodegas San Alejandro, a unique cooperative which champions the conservation of old vines, and the development of organic and sustainable viticulture. The cooperative still owns some of the oldest and highest vineyards in the region planted on precipitous slopes, offering Cuevas de Arom access to the best Garnacha fruit.
The region of Calatayud is located far inland, south of Zaragoza in Aragon. Here the climate is warm and continental with very low rainfall. Fernando was determined to unlock the potential of the region’s oldest Garnacha vineyards, which are located on high-altitude plateaus at 600 to 1,000 metres above sea level. This altitude, combined with the vineyards’ northerly aspect, moderates the region’s warm climate and provides a wide diurnal range for perfectly paced slow ripening to develop complex aromatics and preserve the grapes’ fresh acidity. Fernando has spent years uncovering old, dry farmed bush vines planted on friable Precambrian slate and quartzite. These rocky, free-draining soils, combined with the vines’ age, produce very low yields and naturally control vigour, imparting a signature depth and intensity in the wines. Balance is integral to Fernando’s wines with naturally high acidity tempering the wine’s vivid fruit profile. The parcels are farmed using sustainable and organic practices, with some certified organic.
The fruit is all harvested by hand, using small crates before manual sorting in the cellar and foot treading. Wooden vats and concrete tanks are used for fermentation, which lasts about one month. Whole bunch is at the centre of Fernando’s winemaking philosophy, with the inclusion of stems, to produce a signature freshness and perfume in the wines. Fernando and Mario use only manual punch downs, resulting in delicate, fine-grained tannins. They select concrete, old wood and clay vessels for ageing to highlight the purity of Garnacha and to preserve the wines’ supple texture.
‘Altas Parcelas’ (previously known as ‘AROM’) is sourced from a selection of vineyards at 600 to 800 metres above sea level on quartz and slate soils. The grapes are wild yeast fermented with 30% whole bunches and the wine is aged for 12 months in concrete. It offers a superbly balanced expression of Garnacha with bright and fragrant aromas of blackcurrant, white pepper and thyme, supported by firm tannins and beautiful freshness, quite unlike a traditional Spanish Garnacha.