Just in time for the dog days of summer, the Wine Pairing Weekend crew is exploring the Crisp White Wines from Spain and Portugal. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to uncork a few of these refreshing treats! Our host this month is Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla, and you can read her invitation post here.
Each of us has picked a wine or two that fit the category, done a little “research,” and written a post about our selections. On Saturday at 11 am ET we’ll meet up on Twitter to share what we’ve learned. Our chats are always full of yummy food pairings and tasting notes, with a few travel tales thrown in for good measure.
Please join us! It’s easy to do: just log on to Twitter at the appointed time and follow the hashtag #WinePW. And be sure to add it to all of your tweets.
Here’s a sneak-peek at what we’ll be discussing on Saturday:
- Lori of Dracaena Wines is Celebrating International Albariño Day with #WinePW.
- David from Cooking Chat offers up Rias Baixas Albariño with Summer Party Nibbles.
Sarah of Curious Cuisiniere puts together Galician Style Mussels In White Wine And An Albariño Wine Pairing
- Jill of L’Occasion says What We’re Drinking Now: Chill White Wine from Spain and
- Jeff of FoodWineClick! writes Tapas and Albariño: A Winning Combination.
- Cindy of Grape Experiences is Summer Sipping: Pazo Pondal Albariño 2017.
- Rupal of Syrah Queen lists Top White Wines from the Douro Valley.
- Michelle of Rockin Red Blog tells us to Beat the Summer Heat with Rias Baixas Albariño.
- Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm shares Albariño and Seafood Stew: the Perfect Pairing.
- Jane of Always Ravenous serves Grilled Clams with Spanish Albariño.
- Nicole of Somm’s Table is Cooking to the Wine: Adegas Gran Vinum Nessa Albariño Rias Baixas and an Umami-packed Twist on Fish and Chips.
- Susannah of avvinare offers Albariño paired with Shrimp Paella – A Summer Delight.
- Gwendolyn of Wine Predator is having an Albariño Adventure on Anglesey.
- Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla pairs California Central Coast Albariños with Spanish Bites.
- And here at The Swirling Dervish we’re featuring Wines from Cariñena, Spain: Perfect for Summer Sipping.
Cariñena: A Region to Watch
That’s the slogan for DOP Cariñena, an area with a long viticultural history dating to Roman times. In fact, the name Cariñena derives from the original Roman city, Carae, founded in 50 BC. It lies within the autonomous community of Aragón, in northeastern Spain, a landscape that includes the Ebro River Valley and borders the Pyrénées Mountains to the north and the grand central plain (meseta) to the south. Catalunya lies to the east. And it’s interesting to note that, in Spain, Cariñena refers to the name of the town and the grape variety (aka Carignan in France.)
The climate can best be described as extreme, with very hot summers and harsh, cold winters: hardly the ideal conditions in which to grow grapes for high-quality wines. But Cariñena has a few things working in its favor:
- The mountainous terrain allows for vineyard plantings at elevations as high as 2,000 feet, where the searing heat of summer is moderated by cooler air currents.
- The Cierzo Wind sweeps in from the north, keeping the vines cool and dry, and fungal diseases at bay.
- Temperatures vary greatly between day and night, what wine growers call a diurnal shift; it helps grapes maintain acidity even if they’re grown in warm climates.
- Soils are an ancient mix of limestone, sand, clay, and stones, with the composition varying from one parcel to the next. Grape varieties can be matched to the conditions that suit them.
- Cariñena boasts more old vine plantings of Garnacha and Cariñena than any other region of Spain. On average, the vines are 30-40 years old; some have been around for more than 100 years.
A Focus on Quality
In 1696, local winemakers implemented the Statute of the Vine, a commitment to making high-quality wines by identifying the most promising vineyards for cultivation, and by limiting yields. When the phylloxera crisis destroyed most of Europe’s vines, Cariñena was largely unaffected. It became a refuge for vignerons from France, allowing them to continue farming and supporting their families.
King Alfonso XIII rewarded the citizens of Cariñena for their generosity by granting the town an independent charter in 1863. In 1932, Cariñena was named an official Denominacion de Origen (DO), the second in Spain’s history (Rioja was the first.) Many of the tenets embodied in the DO regulations have their roots in the original Statute of the Vine.
Tasting the Wines
Thanks to Stefanie Schwalb at Gregory+Vine for offering me the chance to try three refreshing wines from Cariñena. (Note: the wines were provided as samples, but the opinions expressed in this post are mine – all mine!)
2017 Bodegas Paniza Viura Chardonnay (13% abv; about $10 retail)
A 50/50 blend of Viura and Chardonnay, this wine is made from grapes farmed on the highest elevations in the region, on the hillsides of the Sistema Ibérico Mountains. Bodegas Paniza, a cooperative of 400 growers, takes advantage of the multiple microclimates that define this part of Cariñena: there are parcels of limestone, sand, and clay planted to the varieties that thrive there. Many are old-vine plantings, including the flagship vineyard (average age 50 years) and the oldest plot which was planted in 1906.
This white blend underwent a short maceration on the skins (2-3 days) and was fermented in stainless steel under strict temperature control. It spent no time in oak.
Color: Pale lemon, fading to clear at the edge.
Nose: A lively mix of ripe orchard fruit (apple and pear) and white flowers, accented by a fresh lemony note. Clean and crisp, very inviting.
Palate: The fruit is more tropical here, think pineapple, with bright flavors of lemon zest and lime. Acidity is medium+ and the finish is clean, with a lingering taste of preserved lemon.
Pairing: I love Chardonnay with roast chicken and potatoes, so this was a no-brainer for me. I prepared the chicken with lemon and garlic, choosing lemon and rosemary for the potatoes. A quick tomato salad completed the menu. The wine and food got along like a house on fire! Super delish.
2017 Bodegas San Valero Particular Origium Garnacha Rosado (11.5% abv; about $10 retail)
Bodegas San Valero is another cooperative (700 growers) allowing smaller establishments to craft high-quality wines without incurring the capital expenses of a full-scale winery. San Valero’s offerings focus on grape varieties native to Cariñena, especially Garnacha (25% of plantings) most of which comes from vines 30-100 years old.
No surprise then, that the Particular Rosado is 100% Garnacha. This is a classic wine made in a modern style: the region’s traditional grape variety made in stainless steel under cool temperatures. To achieve the perfect pink color, the juice sat on the grape skins for several hours. Just enough time to extract the juicy cherry-berry flavors of classic Garnacha without inviting unwanted bitterness.
Color: Perfect pink with glints of violet/purple throughout.
Nose: All the things I love about Garnacha – red berries and cherries galore, with a whiff of savory/herbal grilled meat. Yes! This is true Rosado.
Palate: Ripe raspberry and cherry mingle with notes of thyme and citrus peel. Medium acidity, medium body, and medium finish. Brings back memories of my first trip to Spain, when I drank Rosado like this one by the carafe, while scarfing down fresh-grilled sardines at the beach.
Pairing: We sipped this as we snacked on an antipasto platter and it was a great match. But the wine really showed its true Spanish colors alongside a watermelon and feta salad. I could have that meal every night for a month!
2017 Grandes Vinos Corona de Aragon Garnacha Blanca (13% abv; about $15 retail)
Grandes Vinos bills itself as the Legacy of Cariñena, an appropriate moniker considering it has vineyard plots in all 14 growing zones. Under the Grandes Vinos umbrella are five wineries, all of which work with the Grandes Vinos technical team to craft wines reflecting their unique origins. It’s a great model, one that delivers a multitude of options for the consumer: grape varieties are matched to the most suitable parcels depending on soil types and elevation. The result is a diverse menu of wines available at all price points.
This wine is actually a blend (87% Garnacha Blanca; 13% Chardonnay) from a combination of old-vine plantings (the Chardonnay vines are at least 25 years old) and new (the Garnacha vines a mere five years old.) All plots lie on the rocky, well-drained soil native to Cariñena. Fermentation was in stainless steel and there was no oak treatment, meaning this is a fresh, vibrant wine ready to handle a wide range of foods.
Color: Pale lemon-green, fading to clear at the rim.
Nose: Medium+ intensity aromas of white flowers, citrus blossom, and ripe pear. There’s a decidedly sweet scent that is almost honeyed.
Palate: Lots of orchard fruit – ripe apple and pear – and just a touch of tropical pineapple. It actually tastes like grilled pineapple. The wine is medium in body, alcohol, and acidity, with a lingering finish of frangipane/bitter almond.
Pairing: We paired this with our favorite take-out pizza from Whole Foods. It’s called the Sweet Southern Swine and it’s a white pie with pork belly, jicama, and arugula, then drizzled with a hint of honey. I think there might be some magic dust sprinkled on top, because it’s just heavenly! And it was uhh-mazing with the Garnacha Blanca. Super match!
I hope you’ve enjoyed my brief trip to Cariñena’s wine country. And I hope my notes have encouraged you to try these wines for yourself. They deliver a lot of bang for the buck and are perfect for the triple-H occasions: you know, the hazy, hot, and humid days of late summer. (Or any time of year, for those of us living in south Florida!)
If you’re interested in learning more about the region, here are a few resources for your reference:
- Visit the Cariñena DOP website for a great overview of the history and wines of the region.
- Search social media using #CoolDownwithCariñena or #CariñenaAmbassadors.
- Planning a trip to Spain? Learn about Cariñena’s Wine Route here.
- And if you find something really great, please let me know in the comments. I’m always up for great QPR wines like these!