CARIÑENA, the largest and oldest of the Aragonese Do’s, was one of Spain’s earliest areas to be demarcated, in 1932. It has given its name to the grape of the same name. The last decade has seen fast development thanks to fusions between small bodegas and cooperatives, and the reshaping of wines to modern tastes.
The Romans established the town of Carae in 500 BC in an area where the locals had been making and enjoying a drink of wine mixed with mead since the 3rd century BC. And the vineyards continued flourish under the monasteries protection in medieval times. Growing controls also began early, in 1694, when growers were forbidden to plant new vineyards. Situated in the centre of Aragón, the vineyards lie on a 400 metre plain south of the River Ebro know as the Campo the Cariñena. It rises to 800 metres where they run south to meet the Sierra de la Virgen. Redish-brown limestone topsoil’s covers loose, rocky subsoil with plenty of calcium carbonate and, in places, slate and alluvial soils. These retain water well. Temperatures are extreme in this harsh continental climate. In summer they rise to 38º and in winter they fall to 8º C, with wind-chill added by “cierzo” winds from the north, which help keep humidity low. The contrasts of temperature between day and night help to give the grapes their intense flavor. Although the DO has given its name to the Cariñena grape, the most important varieties are the Red Garnacha (making up 55% of vineyards) used in both red and rose wines. Tempranillo, typically used in wines to be aged (15% of vineyards) is growing, as ageing requirement increases for red wines. Experiments are also underway with imported grapes such as Chardonnay and Parellada
Espalier-trained vines planted in rectangular patterns with 3 metres between the rows, now make up the majority of vineyards. Vine density is between 1,500 and 3,000 plants per hectare. The vintage usually starts in September
Wine –making methods here are modern. All stainless-steel equipment is temperature-controlled, and wines are generally bottled with inert gas to improve keeping. Red wines here are made with full malo-lactic fermentation although carbonic maceration is now being introduced for young reds. Selection for the Crianzas, Reservas and Gran Reservas begins in the vineyards, and increasing amounts of Tempranillo are added to Garnacha in proportion to the total time for which they will be aged. Whites are usually made with 90% or more Viura, and rosés from Garnacha, but with some red or white grapes added. Rosés are left with their malic acid, to keep total acidity high, and they are allowed to macerate to acquire color. Lighter wines are drunk young.The young, fresh white wines and the famed rosés are sold for immediate drinking.The reds have the characteristic style of Garnacha wines made in hot climates and the 5% Cariñena grapes added to these for long ageing help add staying power an color.
Carmen Sebastián García
Bodegas Ignacio Marin