Saturday, April 25, 2015

Discovering Cariñena Garnacha with #WineStudio

This Tuesday is the final chapter in Protocol Wine Studio's focus on Cariñena Garnacha - Grenache to most of us. D.O.P. Cariñena is a Spanish wine region located in the northeast, bordering the Pyrenees and France to the north and Catalunya to the east. Monks have been making wine in the area since the 1400s, but the region was not granted D.O.P. status until1932. The region is elevated, with most vineyards located in the 1,800 - 2,000 foot range. That along with a strong diurnal shift and rocky soils provide an ideal environment for Garnacha. In fact, the region was not affected by the 1860s Phylloxera blight because of these sandy soils. A majority of grape growers have formed co-ops, so that the three largest produce a majority of Cariñena Garnacha and all utilize "old vine" with vineyards 50-100 years old.  The Cariñena grape (Carignan) is also prevalent; but Garnacha is the dominant grape and there are more old vine Garnacha in Cariñenathan anywhere else in Spain.

Lyn Farmer (@FizzFan), the James Beard Award-winning wine and food writer, visited the Cariñena region last June led our weekly discussions providing insight into the region and wines. In general, he commented, "lower altitude Cariñena wines have bright, fruity flavors while those from higher altitudes exude concentration & complexity". He also stated.“I believe Cariñena is positioned to take a vibrant place on the world wine stage. It is not (yet) so well known as regions slightly to the north like Ribera del Duero and Rioja, nor is it (yet) so trendy as Priorat and Toro, but Cariñena’s day is coming.” 

The first week of tasting featured two wines from Grandes Vinos y Viñedos, the youngest co-op of the big three - founded in 1997. It sources fruit from each of the region's 14 growing areas and winemaker Marcello Morales uses these to create a Provence-styled rose, the Grandes Vinos y Viñedos, 2014 Beso de Vino Garnacha Rosé ($10, 13% ABV).  After an eight hour cold soak, this free run juice was fermented at low temperatures That's an amazing price for non-saignée rosé and after tasting, a true bargain. This is a bright wine, big red cherry aroma followed by minerals and ending with great acidity. Here's your summer sipper. We then moved on to another great value, the Grandes Vinos y Viñedos, 2014 Corona de Aragón Old Vine Garnacha ($10, 13.5% ABV). The grapes were sourced from the oldest vines in the Villanueva de Huerva region - the highest and most remote in Cariñen. After fermentation, the wine was aged just four months in oak providing a fruity and jammy wine with subtle texture, dusty tannins, and a surprising long finish. Quite nice.

The second week of tasting featured wines from Bodegas San Valero (Grupo BSV), the oldest winery in Cariñena - founded in 1944. The winery manages 700 grape growers and 8,600 acres of land, focusing on low yield plots. I started with the Bodegas San Valero, Castillo Ducay Tinto Joven ($8-10, 13% ABV), where the grapes are sourced from the Monte Ducay vineyard. This plot is located at 2,100 feet and includes15 to 20 year-old vines. The final produce is another value wine that exudes concentrated cherry juice that mellows with decanting. There's a chewy chocolate texture to the wine which finishes gently. Drink now, perhaps a little BBQ.  The second wine was the Bodegas San Valero, 2013 Particular Cariñena ($15), a more complex  and luscious wine with a leathery, herbal, and dark cherry aroma, silky velvety mid, and soft tannins. So far this is my favorite of the Cariñena session and another bargain.

At 9PM Tuesday April 28th, #WineStudio will finish the series with two wines from Bodegas Paniza. Come join the Cariñena Garnacha discussion. Cheers.

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