Cariñena’s ready to Take Center Stage

The wines of Cariñena may be unknown to you, as they were to me until my recent trip to the region which i reported on here:  Now that I am more familiar with these intriguing wines I’ve spent some time sharing them with my wine writing friends to get their impressions of the wines, and to see how they might position the wines in the US market. 

You might ask why this is interesting, or even remotely important, which would be fair questions. With easy answers. Wine writing today is no longer the private domain of privileged experts who compare everything they taste to fine Bordeaux or Burgundies. Now that the internet has opened the world of wine writing up to so-called citizen bloggers we’re finding actual consumers are writing about wine. Imagine that, the folks who buy and drink wine, instead of the professional junketteer class, are now writing about wine and talking to vast audiences at that! 

Real consumers enthusing about new wines to audiences cumulatively number over 100,000 wine lovers. Reason enough? Oh, and the wines are terrific to boot! Don’t take my word for it, check out what these writers had to say about the wines of Cariñena.


Benjamin Carter


I’ve been drinking Spanish wines for the past twenty years of my personal grape journey, yet I continue to be surprised. Spain is like a massive old library: just when you think you’ve seen everything, you walk through a door and there is an entire wing of books you’ve never heard of before.  Such was the case with the wines of Cariñena from the northeast corner of Spain. The region is named after the Carignane grape (or Mazuelo, or what they call in Lodi “Kerrigan”), though I found that the best wines came from more well-known Spanish varieties.


My favorite of the tasting was the 2009 Castillo de Monséran Garnacha ($12, 14.5% abv.), which shows a lot of classic Old World elements. Initial elements of prune and stewed fruit with great earthiness.  Yet in the glass it is austere, and it has great potential to develop for the next few years to blossom far beyond its bargain price point. Serve with a dish of garlic-studded pork loin braised with dried apricots and paired with couscous.  The temperature is right for a Mediterranean meal and you will not be disappointed.

Ben Carter


Dezel Quillen


I thoroughly enjoyed the recent Cariñena Google Hangout tasting. All of the wines we had an opportunity to taste and exchange thoughts about offered extremely good value. I think the eye-catching packaging of the Beso de Vino and attractive price point (under $10) would be particularly appealing to millennials. The label would hook them and the quality would reel them in. Both of these wines are fun, easy-drinking, juicy and berry-driven, and perfect for backyard cookouts with family and friends. The Agoston 2013 Tempranillo and Cabernet blend, which was similarly priced, is approachable and satisfying, with clean red and purple fruit flavors, notes of spice, and balanced acidity. It has an overall soft and smooth character and is a solid red wine for everyday drinking that won’t break the piggy bank. The Castillo de Monseran Old Vine Garnacha, in my opinion, over delivers for its price point. It shows good depth of fruit, range and integration with focused red and purple fruit flavors – both fresh and dried. I found it a bit more substantive than its counterparts in structure and weight, but equally as filling and enjoyable. Besides good value, the other common trait these wines share is a food-friendly nature. With summer upon us, and grills fired up, these wines will go great with just about anything coming off the grill. Thanks again for the invitation; the wines of Cariñena were an eye-opener and confirm that it doesn’t have to be very expensive to taste good!

Dezel Quillen


Nannette Eaton


Not one to bury the lead, let’s cut to the chase, shall we? This wine is a delicious redwine from Spain for $7 USD at Trader Joe’s. Now, go! Scamper off with your sawbuck and score a bargain bottle of vino.


Spanish wines, in general, are undervalued, which make them a terrific deal for wine drinkers. If you’re not familiar with D.O. Cariñena, it’s a wine region in northeastern Spain in heart of the Ebro Valley, 225 miles west of Barcelona and 180 miles east of Madrid. Since the travel budget coffers are low at Wine Harlots, and a trip to Spain isn’t in the cards this summer, the lovely folks at Snooth shipped a half-case of wines from D.O. Cariñena to explore during a video Google Hangout with a group of other wine writers. We had a great time, but it wasn’t the same as a trip to Spain, but, then again, I wasn’t struggling with a nine hour time zone jetlag, so I guess it’s a wash.


All of the six we tasted were tasty, quaffable bargains, but this was the standout. Monte Ducay Reserva is produced by Bodegas San Valero and is a juicy, fruity wine, perfect for summer barbecues and patio grilling. It tastes like a $15 wine, and it’s dressed up in a golden paper wrap that makes it look fancy — during our tasting, Gregory Dal Piaz of Snooth unwrapped the paper and demonstrated that it can double as a bib for eating, or can be crafted into a hat for protection from any summer downpours. Yep, wild and crazy fun.


What’s the perfect pairing? Any thing that comes off the grill — burgers, ribs, paella or even grilled vegetables will complement this easy-drinking red. The music match is “Lady in Spain” by Ingrid Michaelson. If you can’t actually be in Spain, this is the next best thing.

Nannette Eaton


Clifford Brown


In late June I had the extreme good fortune of being invited to participate in an online tasting of wines from Cariñena, a region in Spain.  This event was organized by Snooth and Greg Dal Piaz.  This wasn’t your usual online Twitter based tasting or even one with someone in front of a camera leading the event and doing all the talking.  This was a true roundtable event.  We all connected to a Google+ Hangout with our own audio and video feed.  Whenever one of us talked, everyone’s video feed would switch to the person “with the floor”.  This was my first experience with this format, but I’m sure it won’t be my last.  There are limitations in the number of concurrent video feeds allowed in the session, but for events with under a dozen participants, this platform should be outstanding.

Cliff Brown


The Wines


This is a blend of 85% Syrah and 15% Garnacha.  The wine has 13.5% alcohol by volume and the bottle is sealed with a twist off closure.


The wine is a medium ruby red color.  The intriguing nose has cherries, minerals, white pepper, blackberries, licorice and dried violets.  This is barely medium body with moderate tannins and crisp acidity.  On the palate tart cherries and minerals jump out first with licorice and a floral note coming in later.  The finish has decent length with a cranberry note joining the show.  This needs some food to help keep the acidity in check.  (88 pts)


This is a 50-50 blend of Tempranillo and Cabernet.  The wine has 13.5% alcohol by volume and the bottle is sealed with a twist off closure.


The wine is a medium to deep ruby red color.  The inviting nose has cherries, cassis, dried herbs, crushed stone minerals, baking spices, dark chocolate, fresh thyme and a touch of cedar.  This has medium body with soft tannins and slightly soft acidity.  Juicy cherries and berries with baking spices coat the palate with minerals and dark chocolate coming in on the back end.  The sappy finish adds some cedar.  I’d like a bit more grip on the back end and finish, as is it gets a touch soft.  (88 pts)


This wine has 14.5% alcohol by volume and the bottle is sealed with a natural cork.


The wine is a deep ruby red color.  The appealing nose has cherries, white pepper, vanilla, wild flowers, baking spices and a touch of dark chocolate.  This has medium body with moderate tannins and good acidity.  Spicy cherries and white pepper pop out first on the palate with a floral note coming out on the backend.  The finish has decent length with a touch of earthiness adding some depth.  Not bad but not really showing anything special at this time, I’m sure this will be better down the road.  (89 pts)


This wine has 13.5% alcohol by volume and the bottle is sealed with a twist off closure.


The wine is a bright ruby red color.  The inviting nose has cherries, blackberries, white pepper, crushed stone minerals, mint, vanilla, plums and candied violets.  This is barely medium body with moderate tannins and very good acidity.  On the palate zippy fruit and white pepper jump out first with minerals, plums and mint coming in later.  The finish has good length with a nice floral note entering the picture.  This is a solid effort.  (90 pts)


This wine has 14.0% alcohol and the bottle is sealed with an agglomerated cork.


The wine is a medium garnet color.  The impressive nose has cherries, black raspberries, licorice, white pepper, cocoa powder, vanilla and candied violets.  This has medium body with soft velvety tannins and decent acidity.  Rich, ripe berries, spice and cherries coat the palate initially and grudgingly allowing some white pepper and cocoa powder to slip through on the back end.  A candied floral nose enters the picture on the finish which has decent length.  This is an easy drinking wine with slightly low acidity and just a touch of sweetness.  (87 pts)


This wine has 13.0% alcohol and the bottle is sealed with a natural cork.  Per Greg this is only$7 but appears to be available only at Trader Joes.  If you see this wine at that price, grab a case, you won’t be sorry.


The wine is a medium to deep ruby red color.  The enticing nose has black cherries, raspberries, minerals, baking spices, cedar, white pepper, and dried violets.  This has medium body with moderate tannins and very nice acidity.  On the palate spicy cherries and raspberries hit upfront with minerals and spicy oak coming in later.  The finish has good length with some subtle earthiness and white pepper adding nice depth.  (90 pts)




I was already fairly familiar with the region and in fact have had prior vintages of half these wines.  This is a very unique region, some of the wineries are very “old school” and others are adopting the practices of the “new world” regions.


Every one of these wines were distinctive.  They had the “personality” and nuances to satisfy any wine lover but would easily satisfy even a novice wine sipper in any friendly gathering.


Hat Tip To: Snooth – Articles


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