CARIÑENA is a Spanish Denominación de Origen (DO) created in 1932 for wines produced on the Campo de Cariñena plateau near the centre of Aragón, the acknowledged source of the Carignan grape or Mazuelo. This is also grown in Italy and new world regions.
The vineyards lie between 400-800m above sea level with temperature extremes over 12 months as well as daytime and night which contribute to the characteristic intensity of Cariñena wines.
The local population had been producing mead since 300 BC; during the Middle Ages wine-making prospered under the protection of monasteries and by the 16th century vineyards covered 50 per cent of the territory of Zaragoza Province.
Since 1995 Cariñena exports have quadrupled thanks to changes aimed at attracting more overseas buyers through fruitier, lighter and well balanced wines while the traditional robust, high alcohol content wines are retained mainly for local consumption.
The most planted variety is Garnacha tinta (55 per cent) for reds and rosés, followed by Viura (20 per cent), Mazuelo and Tempranillo (15 per cent), while Moscatel Romano is used for the production of sweet Moscatels and a rare red grape called Vidadillo.
Tempranillo is blended with Garnacha to make the Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva.
The whites are made with Viura and the rosés use Garnacha along with other white and red varieties and are macerated for colour.
Both the fresh young whites, which represent 20 per cent of total production, and rosés, are best consumed within the year of production.
Reds have the characteristic style of Garnacha wines produced in hot climates and, in the case of oak-aged Crianzas, have the taste and strength provided by 5 per cent of Cariñena grapes which pair well with red meats and game. Happy tasting.