We recently had the good fortune to taste a variety of wines from the Cariñena wine region of Spain. Cariñena is a Spanish Denominación de Origen Protegida (DOP - similar to AVAs in the United States). It is one of the oldest designated areas in Spain, established in 1932; however, the region's wine-growing goes back to Roman times. Fortunately for American wine lovers, Cariñena wines are becoming quite popular in the states. Cariñena is also a grape varietal that is common in the area. However, most of Cariñena's wines are made from Garnacha grapes. The main flavor notes in the Cariñena grape are red and black fruit, licorice, and baking spices.
We enjoyed the wines from the Grandes Vinos winery, located in the foothills of the Iberian Sierras. Grandes Vinos vineyards cover 4500 Hectares (approximately 11,000 acres!). The winery produces 8 separate labels, two of which we sampled. The area is blessed with ancient stony soil and strong dry winds – a perfect combination for producing delicious wines.
The wines under the Monasterio de las Vinas label are made from grapes grown in one of the highest areas of the DOP and pay tribute to the Cistercian monks of the 11th century. We tasted the 2013 Gran Reserva, made from vines planted over 40 years ago. It is a blend of Garnacha (40%), Tempranillo (40%), and Cariñena (10%), with flavor notes of dark fruit, licorice, and earthy tones and a long and satisfying finish. The color is a beautiful dark ruby. No surprise that our steak paired so well with this.
Another great reserve wine was the 2015 Reserva, which is Garnacha (40%), Tempranillo (40%), Cariñena (10%), and Cabernet Sauvignon (10%). The grapes come from an even higher elevation and produce a lively, fruit-forward, well-balanced wine. Lots of black and red cherry, plum, dried herbs, and black olive, it is aged 12 months in oak, giving it a very light oaky flavor. It is well-balanced with a remarkable acidity.
The 2016 Old Vine Garnacha also comes from 40-year-old vines and is a medium ruby color with pronounced intensity of ripe cherry, berries, and vanilla. It is the 2020 Sommeliers Choice Awards Gold winner, and we could definitely see why!
Our last wine from the Monasterio label was the 2018 Garnacha & Tempranillo, the Gold winner of the Berliner Wine Trophy in 2019. It is purplish in color and has a nose of red and black fruit. The fruit notes are fresh and bright – with a very slight tone of bubble gum! Sounds strange – but it was delicious!
Grandes Vinos premium collection is the Anayón label. The grapes are grown in small lots from an area that has unique soil conditions and climate and delivers limited production in exceptional years only. Their 2018 Chardonnay is yet another award winner – achieving a Silver in the 2020 Chardonnay du Monde. The nose is rich and sweet – crème brûlée, honey, and pineapple. The mouthfeel is creamy and lush, and the color is deeper than most chardonnays due to leaving the skins in contact with the juice for a short time. It is aged for six months in American Oak and has crisp tastes of tree fruit and baking spices and a long finish.
We finished our tasting journey to Cariñena with the Anayón 2015 Garnacha -silver winner of the 2020 Sommeliers Choice Awards. This Garnacha comes from 75-year-old vines and has a deep rich ruby color, good acidity, and a long finish. The nose is smoke and mocha with hints of plum. It was an excellent wine for our last taste of the region, with notes of dark cherry, licorice, and a wonderful minerality.
Our tasting journey and associated online class from Napa Valley Wine Academy is now completed. What a great virtual journey! We can't wait to visit this fine wine region in person someday. In the meantime, these wines are available in the United States at select Whole Foods and other wineshops. These wines are well worth the effort to seek them out.
Editorial disclosure: wine for our tasting was generously provided