How Cariñena helps me pass the winter blues

Surviving Winter with Carinena wine (1)

I dread winter. If you ever have experienced a Canadian winter, then you would know what I am talking about.

For those readers that don’t know what is like: picture an outdoor temperature that resembles more your home freezer. Of course, some people will say, it is not always like this, but the last few weeks in Quebec has felt like like living in an ice block.

I am not the type of guy who does winter sports. Figurati, being born in Venezuela, soccer and baseball were the sports familiar to me. Years ago, I took a skating class in college. Unfortunately, it was not my first choice because all the other courses were taken. To make the story short, I ended up learning how to skate with a chair rather than the real thing.

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What do I love to do in winter?. This is the season where I hibernate: Drink lots of red wine, cook using the slow cooker and read quite a bit of old magazines. This year, I am  also practicing my home baking skills since I decided to get a diploma in professional bread baking.

Winter is also the time of the year when I drink my fair share of Spanish reds. When I have a glass of Ribera del Duero, Rioja or Priorat, my heart warms up and I get a ray of sunshine to face the tough winter days ahead.

Being this month, the coldest of the season, I can’t stop thinking about the wines of Cariñena. I have known the wines of Aragon way back before I went to live in Spain in 2002. Cariñena is the kingdom of Garnacha but not any kind: old vine in high altitudes from 400 m to 800 m above sea level. These are rich and robust reds perfect for the hearty fare of winter.

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Lucky for me, the wines of Cariñena were present in the late Wine Bloggers Conference. In a seminar led by veteran wine educator Lyn Farmer, I learn about a fair amount of new trivia that I did not know about of one my favorite wine regions of Spain.

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Lyn Farmer

First, I learnt that Cariñena is the name of a Spanish town as well. Second, the wine region has a lot of goat herders which explains the excellent quality of their cheeses.  Other information in the seminar was a fresh review for me. You see, the wines of Carinena have a modest following in Quebec. For instance, the SAQ list more than 25 references in the catalog with incredible modest prices ( $9.95 to a maximum of $45)

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Despite the excellent prices, for many lovers, Cariñena still remains much of out of their radar and it should not be like that at all. The region boast some of the oldest Grenache and Carignan plantings in Europe. The average age of the vines is 50 years old and sometimes pushing more than 100. Furthermore, the favorable climatic conditions such as the strong winds of the region keep the wines fresh and free of disease.

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After the presentation, we tasted 6 wines from the region to demonstrate the variety of styles in the appellation. First came 3C Premium Selection  Carinena 2012.  From Grandes Vinos y Viñedos , this wine enterprise works with different winegrowers  in all 14 of the sub  areas of D.O.P. Cariñena.  This bottling is mono varietal Carignan relatively old (45 years old) from  the Sierra de Algairén at 700 m altitude. It had a penetrating bouquet of ripe red fruits accentuated by the floral notes of the variety. On the palate, spicy and not too oaky with silky tannins.

The second wine was Artigazo 2009. A blend of 40% Garnacha, 30% Syrah and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon of 40+ years agre. This bottle was denser and more complex than the first one featuring notes of roasted coffe, cedar, graphite and spice. This is a tried and tested example  of what old vines and power blends can achieve. Artigazo is made by Bodegas Paniza, a cooperative made of more than 400 growers. This is a nice little wine to have with a good old-fashioned roast beef.

The third wine presented was something quite different. From Bodegas San Valero, the Particular Garnacha Joven 2016. From younger Garnacha vines ( 15-25 years old) grown in a high altitude ( 800 m) and no oak aging. This was a bright and fresh wine with aromas reminiscent of red fruits and soft floral undertones. Bodegas San Valero has a track record in the region and works with a network of more than 700 growers.

Carrying on, we had El Circo Garnacha 2016. A young Garnacha bottling as well with no oak aging, This bottle had aromas of ripe strawberries and cherries with a delicate touch of spice. Smooth and racy with firm tannins and a long finish. A very accessible wine that coud be easily be my house wine.

The wine that followed was  Vinas Viejas 2012 from Bodegas Paniza as well, was no stranger to me. I had the chance  to review a few times in the past. An old vine Garnacha ( 100+ years old) grown at 800 m with a minimum of 6 month oak aging. The aromas were stunning featuring plenty of  blackberry fruit, cedar, and plum with a hint of spice. Fruity with a good balance and silky tannins. This was a well behaved big Garnacha.

The last bottle was the Particular Centenarias 2012. An old vine Garnacha ( 100+ years old) with a long aging in barrel ( 12 months)  and bottle ( 18 months). This was an exceptional wine in the restrained rather than big style. Very elegant with fine cashmere tannins and flavours redolent of cassis and black cherry. My favorite wine tasting. As I am writing these lines, I wish that I could have a bottle to have a sip.

That’s it for now. All this writing has made thirsty and I am starting to feel cold. I am going to take a break and have a glass of Carinena myself.

Hasta Luego!!!

 

 

Wine Bloggers Conference 2017

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On thursday I will be heading down to Santa Rosa, California to participate in the wine bloggers conference. The conference takes place from November 9th to the 12th I am very excited to participate in this event. As I am writing these lines, I am getting shivers in my body. On its 9th edition, The Wine Bloggers’ Conference is going strong and is  one of the leading voices for the Wine bloggers Industry.

The wine bloggers was founded in 2008. It is an international conference where basically worldwide bloggers gather to discuss the nuts and bolts of wine blogging. Along with some other 350 participants, I will  wrapped up in diverse exciting wine education sessions and also to celebrate the joy of being a wine lover and writer. I have been granted a Ethnifacts Diversity Grant for the scholarship. More important, my act of presence will serve to cheer up Sonoma wine region. The region has been recently ravaged by fires and some fake news have been saying that their wine industry. I don’t think so. It’s just bad rumours.

The agenda this year  looks very interesting. I am looking forward to the Professional Wine Writing Tips session on friday. As you all know, drinking wine is so much fun but writing could be challenging even though you are very passionate.  The other session on saturday ” How to help Wineries and Get Paid doing it  ” interest me as well. It has a been a dream of mine to make a living through wine blogging. Hopefully after the conference, I will be on the right track.

The wine discovery sessions look awesome. I will be assisting to the DOP Carinena and Rias Baixas. Carinena is a treasure chest of old vines Garnacha.  Located in Zaragoza province, the appellation is one of the oldest in Spain. Founded in 1933, the appellation has some 15,500 ha of vineyards and some 45 estates in high altitudes ( 400 to 800 m). The appellation is the birthplace of Garnacha but also other white varieties play an important role such as Garnacha Blanca, Macabeo, Moscatel de Alejandria and Parellada. The wines from this region are also known in Spanish as the ” vinos de las piedras ” which translate into stone wines. I am looking forward for the presentation on this subject by key speaker by Lyn Farmer!!.

Rias Baixas, as well is on the cutting edge of making some of the finest white wines on Spain. This is the kingdom of Albarino, making some seriously heady white wines reminiscent of melon, peach and tropical fruits. Dry and very saline on the mouth, they remind of the Atlantic Ocean. One of my favorite regions in Spain, I will be very nostalgic when I will hear the presentation of Lyn Farmer. Lyn says that the best thing to have with Albarino is another bottle. However, I might add as well, 3 dozens of oysters. For your general interest. Here are the details of the full agenda.

A toro wine to wrap up during the fall weather

I usually dont drink on a regular basis the wines of Toro. Highly extracted and very powerful, I usually keep them for the cold months. By the way, this is not a negative critic, this is the style of the wine region as Toro bakes in the sun during the summer and is very cold during the winter. These wines could be quite powerful and rude enough I remember when I visited  the region back in 2003. It was 45 C in the shade, so you can get the idea how supercharged Tempranillo or Tinta de Toro as it known over there.

A few weeks ago, I passed by my local SAQ store to pick wines, and I saw that they offering to taste The Aponte Reserva 2009.  Frontaura has been making wine since 1574 and is one of the leading wineries in the appellation.  Made from old vines Tempranillo with long aging in french oak, it is a perfect wine for a cold night fall weather.

Frontaura Aponte Reserva Toro 2009. SAQ # 12259407. $23.40

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Dark and intriguing nose of leather, smoke and dry meat ( jerky beef). Spicy and redolent of balsamic notes, cocoa and black raspberry. On the mouth, powerful with a refined palate and ripe but fine tannins bringing to mind coffee, black tobacco and black cherry. Long with a luxurious finale.