Producer: Bodegas Ignacio Marin
Country Hierarchy: Aragon, Spain
Food Suggestion: Lamb
Wine Style: Red – Rich and Intense
Alcohol Content: 12 – 13%
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.
Tempranillo is a red grape variety which forms the backbone of some of the finest wines from Spain and Portugal. Almost every red wine from Rioja and Ribera del Duero has Tempranillo at its core, and in Portugal the variety is widely used in the Douro Valley – under the name Tinta Roriz – both for table wines and fortified wines (Port). Tempranillo vines have been successfully adopted in the New World, especially in California, Argentina and Australia.
Tempranillo means “little early one”, a name given to it by Spanish growers who observed its habit of ripening earlier than Garnacha (Grenache), its traditional Spanish blending partner. DNA studies suggest that the grape originated in Rioja and Navarra, and the lack of clonal variation among the various locations where it is planted indicate that it has only spread through Spain relatively recently. In fact there is now suggestions of a backlash among some wineries outside the grape’s heartland, in favor of longer-established but neglected local varieties.
A thick-skinned red grape with a high anthocyanin count that makes for deep-colored wines with moderate tannins, Tempranillo is well suited to modern consumer tastes. While the variety lacks its own idiosyncratic flavor profile, the wide range of aromas detectable in Tempranillo-based wines result in tasting notes ranging from strawberries, blackcurrants and cherries to prunes, chocolate and tobacco depending on vineyard age and mesoclimate.
Oak and Tempranillo certainly marry well together. American oak is the traditional choice of winemakers in Rioja, and Tempranillo’s flavor profile integrates well with the vanilla and coconut notes imparted by new American oak barrels. Further west in Ribera del Duero, the fashion is to use higher proportions of French and used-oak barrels to allow Tempranillo’s fruit to shine with a focus on more spiced oak flavors. However, with time, the two styles have been gradually consolidating and the consumer can now find complex wines made with an oak regime combining all of these options.
Tempranillo grapes are not known for their naturally high acidity, and it is possible to find flat, overblown wines from the baked plains of La Mancha, which clearly indicate a wine from a hot, flat environment (“manxa” means “parched earth” in Arabic). On the other hand, this lack of abundant acidity (when compared to Spanish red-wine grape Graciano) serves Tempranillo well when it grows in topographically diverse regions with high diurnal temperature variation.
The variety does best when hot, sunny days allow its thick-skinned berries to ripen fully, with cold nights to help them to retain their natural acid balance. The result is bright, lively, fruit-driven wines with just the right balance of warmth and tanginess. And this is where Tempranillo comes into its own. It is no surprise, then, that the continental terroirs of Argentina and Australia have been the first New World regions to adopt Tempranillo.
As is the case with Garnacha (Grenache), Tempranillo lends itself well to cultivation in bush vine or “goblet” form, which is how it has traditionally been grown across the Iberian Peninsula. The freedom of bush vines is thought to encourage the development of the resulting wines’ fruitier flavors, although many Spanish growers are now obtaining good results from Tempranillo vines trained on wires. Being a vigorous variety, a fearless pruning regimen is essential to keep fruit quality at its best.
Tempranillo may be an Old World grape, but producers there are taking the New World’s lead when it comes to bottle labeling. It is increasingly common to see Tempranillo proudly displayed on wine labels in conjunction with the more traditional geographical indicator.
Spain: Cencibel, Tinto Fino, Tinto del Pais, Tinto de Toro, Tinto Madrid, Ojo de Liebre, Ull de Llebre.
Portugal: Aragones, Aragonez, Tinta Aragoneza, Arinto Tinto, Tinta Roriz, Tinta de Santiago.
Food matches for Tempranillo wines include:
- Roasted red peppers stuffed with rice and morcilla blood sausage
- Brazilian pork and bean stew (feijoada)
- Roast lamb with redcurrant jelly
(sources : wine-searcher)