The Tasting Panel magazine

August 2017

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Page 127 of 136

august 2017  /  the tasting panel  /  123 s part of a nationwide program targeting those who sell wine, the promotional arm of Spain's DOP Cariñena recently held a series of lunches across the country to interact with a select group of retailers, sommeliers and distributors. The events were geared toward introduc- ing buyers and sellers to the region's increasingly available wines. The Region DOP Cariñena, high on the Aragón plain between Madrid and Barcelona, is Spain's second-oldest certified Protected Denominación de Origin (DOP), having been granted DO status in the 1930s—only Rioja is older. Three producers, all cooperatives, drive winemaking in the region, which is comprised of over a thousand small-plot growers manag- ing upwards of 20,000 acres of vines. The producers—Bodegas San Valero (established 1944), Bodegas Paniza (established 1953) and Grandes Vinos y Viñedos (established 1997)—all work hand-in-hand with their vineyards to ensure that growing standards remain at the highest level. DOP Cariñena's significant elevation—vineyards range from 1,300 to 2,800 feet—and arid climate produce a unique opportunity to craft a variety of wines, from crisp dry whites and vibrant rosados to reds of both depth and elegance that are almost unmatched in that region of Spain. DOP Cariñena is also thought to be the homeland of the Cariñena (aka Carignan) grape variety, hence the name. That said, while Cariñena is well-planted in the region, the Garnacha (aka Grenache) grape is king here, and all three of the major wineries produce mul- tiple expressions of it. In fact, DOP Cariñena has the most plantings of old-vine Garnacha in Spain, with some vineyards well over one hundred years old. The Wines All of the above sounds like a carefully developed recipe for expen- sive wine, doesn't it? Not necessarily. One of the hallmarks of the wines from DOP Cariñena is affordability—or what Diego Pinedo of Bodegas Paniza likes to call the quality-versus-price ratio. "We have a unique ability with our region to create wines of top quality and keep costs in check due to the familial relationship with our growers," he says. "This, in my opinion, makes Cariñena wines some of the most exciting to come out of Spain." This fact intrigues Teresa Ely, owner of Bacco Fine Wine, a distributor consultant in the Atlanta area who works with on- and off-premise accounts that demand quality, but also something differ- ent. "Our customers look for quality and value, but also uniqueness," she said at lunch. "Cariñena accomplishes all three. If Cariñena can continue to do this, then the market will respond well." Kevin Stein (also of Bacco Fine Wine), another attendee of the DOP Cariñena event at The Iberian Pig in Decatur, Georgia (an Atlanta suburb), agrees. "Even the most entry-level steel-fermented reds are good. They are a perfect fit for by-the-glass programs where buyers look for 'finds' to pour for their customers." Ryan Stanton, General Manager of Ultimate Distributors, added, "I'm floored by the quality of these wines," he said at lunch, "espe- cially in relation to how much they cost. Simply put, they're an amazing value and, put in the right hands to sell them, should only gain momentum." For more information on the wines of DOP Cariñena, visit Teresa Ely of Bacco Fine Wines talking about the wines of DOP Cariñena. "We have a unique ability with our region to create wines of top quality and kp costs in check due to the familial relationship with our growers."

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