Producer: Bodegas Ignacio Marin
Country Hierarchy: Aragon, Spain
Grape/Blend: Carignan – Grenache – Tempranillo
Food Suggestion: Lamb
Wine Style: Red – Rich and Intense
Alcohol Content: 13%
Notes: Indicative blend: Garnacha with Tempranillo, Carinena
Carinena is just one of several DO titles used for the wines of Aragon, northern Spain. Its winegrowing area is situated to the south of the River Ebro, and north-east of Calatayud. The town from which it takes its name has also been adopted by the Carinena grape variety(known as Carignan in other parts of the world), which once dominated the local vineyards.
The region sits in the Ebro Valley upon one its vast plains. Rocks and pebbles abound and, fittingly, wines are known locally as el vino de las piedras, or ‘wine of the rocks’. Carinena boasts a long history of winemaking and the region is one of the oldest demarcated appellations in Europe, having been awarded DO status in 1932.
The flag of Carinena © Wikimedia/Willtron
Winemaking in the area dates back to at least Roman times, and records from that era confirm that locals drank Carinena wines mixed with honey. Many other historical records attest to the quality of the wines from Carinena; King Ferdinand I of Aragon listed it as his preferred wine above all others and the French philosopher Voltaire thought it heavenly. Wine has long been the economic mainstay of the region and a source of great pride and renown.
The majority of Carinena’s vineyards are located at relatively high altitudes, between 1312ft and 2625ft (400–800m). They are scattered along the plains of the Ebro River, extending all the way up to the slopes of the Sierra de Algairén mountain range to the west.
The region’s climate is decidedly continental, with extreme seasonal and daily temperature variations, although a cold northerly wind – the Cierzo – helps to moderate summer temperatures and keep humidity low. This, along with the diurnal temperature variation, assists in imparting characteristic intensity to the local grapes, especially Carinena, although today, Garnacha (Grenache) is the most favored grape here, thanks to both market demand and its adaptability to local conditions.
With a change in market forces, the Carinena region has rearranged its wine production rapidly and significantly. The hefty, alcoholic red wines produced by local co-operatives and destined for the bulk blending market have given way to more balanced styles. Small estates have focused on quality rather than quantity, and successful experimentation with international varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah has also added to the region’s standing as a quality wine producer.
Carinena boasts a wide variety of wine styles, ranging from its signature oak-aged reds to dry white wines from Viura (Macabeo) grapes, fruity rosados (rosés) and sweet Moscatels.
The core of Carinena’s designated area also produces sparkling wines under the Cava DO, from Macabeo, Parellada and Chardonnay.
Carignan – Grenache – Tempranillo is a Spanish red blend that partners the declining Carignan with the ever-popular pairing of Grenache and Tempranillo (found together in the Garnacha – Tempranillo blend). The most famous example of the blend is in Rioja, Spain’s first and most prestigious DOCa. Depending on the exact blend, the wine will usually be ruby colored, with red- and dark-berry aromas.
All three varieties are at home in northern Spain. Grenache and Tempranillo have spread across Spain and into the world, with countries as far away as Australia producing wines from the two. Conversely Carignan, once a staple of the western Mediterranean coast, has been replaced in recent years by more glamorous grape varieties.
Carignan, Grenache and Tempranillo blends
As the three share a homeland it is perhaps not surprising that they are well matched in the vineyard, all three flourishing in similar climates. Tempranillo, Grenache and Carignan are all traditionally grown in bush or “goblet” vines, keeping yields low and making for richer, more concentrated wines.
Tempranillo often makes up the majority of the blend, giving structure, soft tannins and rich characters of strawberry and blackcurrant. Grenache offers more berry flavors as well as offering up some spicy overtones; its general purpose is to add an aromatic complexity. Carignan is the blend’s workhorse, giving color, acidity and tannin. It can offer up some notes of sweet spice as well.
While Rioja is undeniably the blend’s most important expression, Carignan, Grenache and Tempranillo are employed together in the wines of a number of other DOs in northern Spain, among them Montsant and Carinena.
Food matches for Carignan – Grenache – Tempranillo wines include:
- Roast chicken with a chorizo stuffing
- Cumin-spiced lamb shawarma
- Red peppers stuffed with ground beef and cheese