Moncayo

South of the Ebro Depression the land rises into the rugged mountains of the Sistema Ibérica, which reaches its highest point in the Moncayo Massif  (San Miguel, 2,313m). Driving past Moncayo always gives me a sense of how immense the Spanish landscape can be. The vineyards of the Campo de Borja offer a more intimate scale, behind them wind turbines and the vast mountain, topped in snow for much of the year, a perfect postcard of Iberian essence. Or as Antonio Machado condensed in the Fields of Castile “White Moncayo erect in the sky of Aragon!”

You move up the mountain, the temperature starts to fall. Mediterranean forest gives way to deciduous oak and birch and beech woods, Scots pine, crowned by sub-alpine meadows at the top, forming a veritable island of northern European habitats surrounded by Mediterranean lands. The summit offers what must be one of the best views anywhere in Spain, on clear days revealing the Pyrenees, the northwestern spine of the Sistema Ibérica, the Meseta and the Ebro depression.

An imposing Moncayo and the Campo de Borja is probably depicted in Goya’s The Wine Harvest (La Vendimia) painted between 1786 and 1787. The painting’s other name The Autumn (El Otoño) is refers to the fact that it forms part of a series of four paintings depicting the seasons of the year. They can all be seen in El Prado in Madrid.