Spain's Cariñena is the same grape as France's Carignan, and it has suffered from a bit of an image problem. Hailing from the town of Cariñena, near Zaragoza in Aragon, northeastern Spain, it reached France by the twelfth century where it spread across the Midi to become the dominant grape. Despite the intrinsic merits of this grape, greedy and careless producers commonly over cropped it, producing high yields of rather diluted wines.
But when grown in the right places, with restricted yields, Cariñena can excel, producing structured wines with savoury, mineral flavours that faithfully reflect their terroirs. It reaches its apogee in the stony, schistous soils of Priorat, where old, low yielding Cariñena vines have been led a quality revolution over the last decade or so. Cariñena produces wines that can be astringent, long-lived and sturdy—ideal for adding backbone to fleshier, fruitier grapes such as Garnacha, with which it is often blended.