April’s Wine Studio took us across the Atlantic Ocean to discover the next “hot” wine and wine region: Garnacha from Cariñena, Spain. In January I published an article titled, “A Festive Night of Spanish Garnacha Wines,” featuring six outstanding Spanish Garnachas shared with me by the kind people at Wines of Garnacha. Since two of the six wines were from the Denominacion Cariñena I was thrilled to take a deeper dive into the wine region with Protocol’s WineStudio.
“What is #WineStudio? PROTOCOL Wine Studio presents an online twitter-based educational program where we engage our brains and palates! It’s part instruction and tasting, with discussions on producers, varieties, tourism, terroir, regional culture, food matching and what all this means to us as imbibers.”
From the Wines of Garnacha web site: Denominacion Cariñena is the oldest D.O. in the region of Aragon. Known as “El Vino de las Piedras” (“The Wine of the Rocks”) for its rocky and compact soil that holds water exceptionally well, Cariñena is also the largest of the D.O.s, with 14,513 hectares of vineyards and 1,600 growers. Garnacha accounts for 31% of production. The soil is clay and limestone and the climate is continental, influenced by three rivers, a mountain system and the cool Cierzo wind. Elevation of the vineyards is 350 to 800 meters.
This map from Vinepair helps locate Cariñena on a map:
The DOP Cariñena web site explains the climate and soil: Wine growers in Cariñena are really privileged thanks to land quality and climate for vine cultivation. Some factors like soil, climate, altitude and orography are combined differently to provide the territory a great aptitude for winemaking. This combination also provides different microclimates and therefore Cariñena region (D.O.) wines offer a wide range of possibilities. As part of the Spanish inland, the climate is defined as medium warm, with a significant trend towards a continental climate with cold winters and very hot summers. These continental characteristics, combined with the winds which frequently blow across the region with torrential downpours which hinder regular rainfall produce a semi-arid landscape. A characteristic of the wind in our area, known as “cierzo”, contributes to the climate dryness. However, the presence of mountains has a positive effect on rainfall, allowing very high, persistent annual mean levels in the form of spring showers and summer storms. Rainfall in the nearby mountains is usually very low, between 350 and 540 mm. The Cariñena wine region is on a plain closed on the south-east by the Iberian System mountain range, in such a way that material depositions descend from the mountains to the plains, defining the use of the soil in each particular case. Moreover, in the plain which stretches parallel to Sierra de Algairén where more than 80% of the Cariñena Wine region (D.O.) are located, Miocene clays soils can be found. There are four main types:
- Dark brown and chalky soils on autochthonous deposits with reddish-brown soil areas. This is the most predominant soil in the Cariñena wine region (D.O.)
- Southern brown soils over slate mainly and quartzite, with areas of xeroranker and lithosol. This type of soil is second in extension terms within the Cariñena wine region (D.O).
- Strong clay soil of terrace over rocky dark brown and chalky soils over eroded glacis or allochthonous limestone deposits.
- Soil of xerorendxinas on loams, sandstones, and sometimes gypsum levels, with lithosols together with dark brown and chalky soils.
Week 1: Welcome to “The Next Great Grape” – the Cariñena Garnacha
Lyn Farmer, James Beard Award-wining wine and food writer, spent the first session introducing us to the Cariñena region. It was an information rich hour. Lyn explained three co-operatives “make up the majority of Cariñena Garnacha and all make ‘old vine’ [wine] with vineyards 50-100 years old.” These co-ops “accumulate grapes from many growers and apply one wine philosophy; Cariñena is lucky to have three great co-ops.” Lyn believes Garnacha is the next great grape because “it is what Merlot wanted to grow up and become: medium acid, medium tannin, friendly fruit.” Adding, “Merlot was marketed as ‘soft’ and ‘feminine’ and early maturing. Garnacha has it for real with good fruit/acid balance.” Due to its well-balanced acid and tannins, Garnacha pairs well with many dishes including chicken, mushrooms, cheese and roasts. It also pairs beautifully with grilled meats and barbeque!
Week 2: Grandes Vinos y Viñedos: Specificity of Styles and Parcel-selections from many Vineyards
This week we looked at Co-operative Grandes Vinos y Viñedos, who works with each of the fourteen growing areas of Cariñenas DOP. Grandes Vinos y Viñedos is the youngest of the three main co-ops; their first vintage was 1997. However, Lyn Farmer explained, “Granes Vinos is the one co-op that works with growers in all 14 growing regions of DO Cariñena.”
Beso de Vino Garnacha Rose 2014: This wine poured a dazzling soft pink into the glass and opened with bright aromas of red fruit with the awesome Watermelon Jolly Rancher aroma I love. On the palate this easy drinking rose offers an array of flavors: cherry, raspberry and strawberry paired with a touch of minerality and a hint of fresh cut herbs. It offered very round acidity and a long, lingering finish. This was an excellent wine for relaxed sipping and paried beautifully with food! SRP $10. It was a very nice rose! The vines of Beso de Vino are 40+ years old.
Corona d’Aragon 2014 Old Vine Garnacha: This wine poured an alluring violet into the glass and opened with an inviting aroma of bramble berries, chocolate, cinammon and a touch of cherry cola. On the palate this Garnacha delivered soft and silky flavors of black raspberries, plums and currants with a hint of spice, cedar and damp tobacco. It has very round acidity and a lingering vanilla finish on the back of the palate. It too was a great food wine. SRP $10. This wine was sourced from the oldest vines in the Villanueva de Huerva región. One final note, this wine contains a quote on the neck label from James I of Aragon, “James The Conqueror”, in 1343. Translated it reads, “So that humanity knows once we have left this life, what we have achieved in the world.”
Week 3: Bodegas San Valero: Low-yield plots that Produce Age-worthy and Complex Wines
Our week three focus was on Bodegas San Valero (BSV). As Protocol Wine Studio explained, Bodegas San Valero has been a “leading winery since 1944, [with] the longest history in Cariñena, and has benefitted from access to some of the most prominent vineyards in the region for over 70 years. Grupo BSV is considered one of the most progressive wineries in Cariñena, combining a passion and respect for tradition with the most modern winemaking techniques that Europe has to offer. DOP Cariñena explained “20% of Garnacha grown in Bodegas San Valero is classified as ‘old vine.’ They manage over 700 grape growers and 8600 acres of land!”
Bodegas San Valero, 2014 Castillo Ducay Tinto Joven: This wine poured an inky violet/garnet into the glass and opened with persistent aromas of concentrated bramble berries, violets, spice and a touch of milk chocolate. This wine was smooth and silky on the palate. It offered ripe tart cherries, blackberries, red raspberries and currants with spice box, nutmeg being the most pronounced and cassis. The acidity was round and the tannins were present yet well integrated for such a young wine; offering a slightly sweet, lingering finish. It has no oak aging; it is meant to be drunk young. I found this wine to be quite pleasing. Lyn Farmer said this wine has the impression of a light sweetness that “makes a great match with salty foods.” It would pair great with the tangy spicy sweetness of some barbeque sauces. With an SRP of $7.99-$9.99, it’s a steal!
Bodegas San Valero, 2013 Particular Cariñena: This wine poured an inky violet with scarlet highlights into the glass and opened with earthy aroma of leather, tobacco and mushrooms followed by cherries and berries. This wine was also smooth and silky, yet richer in flavor and texture. It offered restrained fruit flavors of blackberries, black raspberries, and plums with pronounced flavors of minerality, dusty earth, wet tobacco leaves, dark chocolate and toasted walnuts. The acidity and tannins were well-structured in this full-body, lingering, dry finish wine. I found its earthy qualities quite pleasing. And again with an SRP of $14.99 this is the perfect wine to add to your cellar.
Week 4: Bodegas Paniza: Microclimates and Soils
We concluded our fantastic journey through DOP Cariñena, Spain with Bodegas Paniza. As Protocol Wine Studio explained, “Founded in 1953, Bodegas Paniza is named for the village where the winery is located, and where growers have cared for their vineyards for generations. The winery is situated in the highest elevation area of D.O.P. Cariñena to the south, at the rise of the Sistema Ibérico Mountain range, which brings cooling influences even in the peak of summer. Paniza benefits from a wide variety of microclimates spanning limestone, sand and clay stone soils which allow the team to choose between a variety of vineyards to find the balance they need.”
Bodegas Paniza, 2012 Viñas Viejas de Paniza Garnacha: This 100% Garnacha wine poured an inky purple into the glass and opened with aromas of ripe bramble berries, spice and white pepper. On the palate this wine delivered soft, velvet texture with flavors of cherries, currants, cranberries, with spice notes (Indian as identified by My Vine Spot – Masala as confirmed by Lyn Farmer), white pepper, a touch of chocolate and nice minerality. It has well-structured acidity with integrated tannins, full body and a lingerinly pleasant mouth feel. The fruit drove the wine but the earthiness provided great balance. This wine opened up slowly but nicely. Very good wine at a price that cannot be beat. SRP: $18
Bodegas Paniza, 2008 Paniza Artigazo: This wine poured a deep garnet with scarlet highlights into the glass and opened with dark fruit, spice, and tar on the nose. On the palate this dark, brooding wine delivered rich blackberries, black plums, black cherries with black pepper, spice, tobacco, some dry minerals, toasted walnuts, mocha, dried herbs and a touch of tar. It has an almost chewy texture with rich acidity balanced with round tannins. As it continued to open 50 States of Wine picked up its balsamic vinegar quality and once spoken I began to notice it as well. This was a very complex, sophisticated wine. It was still young for its age; I can see it cellaring well for many more years. It was crafted from 40% Garnacha, 30% Syrah and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon. Lyn Farmer explained “23- day cold soak, ferment, malo in new French oak then matured in vats: so low oak approach. SRP: $27
As you can see #Winestudio is a highly educational experience. Please join #Winestudio on Tuesdays at 8pm CST in May for “Prelude to Turkey.” A huge thanks to Protocol Wine Studio, Lyn Farmer and DOP Cariñena for a wonderful April session on Cariñena and Garnacha.
My Song Selection: What else could possibly pair with these six beautiful Garnacha wines of Spain than one of the world’s most famous Spanish guitarist? Therefore, I chose to pair this fantastic #Winestudio session and these wonderful wines of Cariñena with Armik’s Cartas de Amor. The beauty and flow of this song illustrates the Garnacha wines of Cariñena.
Get your own bottles of Garnacha wines from DOP Cariñena and let me know what song you pair with them. Cheers!