Cariñena is a Spanish Denominación de Origen (DO) for wines located in Cariñena, Aragón, Spain. It is one of the oldest protected growing areas in Europe, the DO having been created in 1932.
The vineyards of Aragón have their origins in the Celtíbera region, the location of the Roman villa of Caræ (now known as Cariñena) – it is said that the inhabitants of Caræ drank wine mixed with honey, mead, from before the 3rd century B.C.
In the Middle Ages cultivation expanded and Cariñena became well known for producing high-quality wines. In 1585, Philip II, King of Spain, visited Cariñena and he was greeted with two wine fountains; one with white and the other with red wine. The king’s visit is commemorated every year in September with the Cariñena wine festival during which fountains dispense wine instead of water.
The Cariñena vine growing area is located 50km southwest of Saragoza, on a plateau called Campo de Cariñena at an altitude varying from 400 to 800 meters above sea level. The climate is continental with extreme temperatures throughout the year; rising up to 38 °Centigrade in the summer and dropping down to -8 °Centigrade in the winter. Low rainfall, hail and the Cierzo wind, which blows cold, dry air down from the north constitute a challenge for viticulture. The Cierzo wind is also a blessing, it helps regulate temperatures and protects the vineyards from pests.
Soils vary, but most fall into one of these three categories: limestone over rock, slate and alluvial soils.
The Appellation covers 4,300 hectares of vines. With its name, one may think that Cariñena is mostly planted with Carignan, however, this is not the case, over 55% of the vineyard surface is planted with Garnacha Tinta for reds and Macabeo is the most popular white varietal covering 20% of the total vineyard surface.