Cariñena Coop Vinícola San Valero Celebrates 75 Years with New Brands and #WineStudio

Celebrating 75 years of winemaking, Cariñena’s Cooperativa Vinícola San Valero, formerly known as Grupo Bodegas San Valero, recently launched of a new corporate structure with new proprietary brands that maintain the passion and spirit of the founding winemakers of 1944.

In late March, before we took a COVID-19 break from tasting together, and in advance of participating in April’s #winestudio educational program focus on the cooperative, Sue and I got together to taste. We paired the wines with a range of gourmet mini-pizzas which Sue swears is easy to do. You can make your own crust or buy it from your local grocer and create the rest. Stores sell pizza sauce in jars that work well. Olive oil or ricotta make a great base for a white sauce pizza. Get creative with the toppings for a fantastic meal.

You can even carry the pizza theme through dessert by using ricotta cheese as a base. Add some fruit, nuts, spices, and a bit of drizzled honey to make the best wine dessert pairing ever.

With all of the pizzas we had, the dessert pizza was by far the most flavorful unexpected, and the most pleasing of all with all of the Cariñena wines. This where Sue thinks outside of the box and often gets it right. This not too sweet, fruity, spiced dessert is a friend to wines.

Cariñena is both a monovarietal grape and a region in Spain. 

The Cariñena variety is influenced by the Mediterranean sun and stony terrain and conveys the character of the land in fresh wines with pure aromas, intoxicating minerals, and silky textures.

The region is one of the most historical in the world, and Cariñena is its native variety. The vine was cultivated in Cariñena in the 3rd century BC, when its inhabitants used to drink wine mixed with honey. Today this 500 member cooperative group of different wineries produces their own wines and cavas, including organic wines. While they have about 20,000 French and American oak barrels to perfect tannins and round out wines, the focus is on being faithful to the variety.

The Bodega Verde Organic Brand is an exciting project and I look forward to sampling the wines in the future and writing about them. The winery is located in a small town of 700 inhabitants and 100% organic vineyards influenced by the Sierra de Algairén.

Founded only in 2019, the Bodega Verde winery, has the largest organic vineyard farm in Aragon, totaling 330 hectares of 100% organic vineyards. Winegrower families with respect for the land are linked, generation after generation with the countryside with a goal to transform light into silence by following a philosophy that everything that exists in the universe is connected.

The winery produces three wines at this time: a red blend of the Garnacha / Syrah, a rosé wine of the Garnacha, and a white wine of the Macabeo variety. In addition to being 100% organic, wineries are highly responsible for the environment in eliminating pests and diseases. They also use rice labels and biodegradable corks.

We also had a fine array of appetizers to pair with the wines with a focus on Spanish cheeses.

A Tale of Monte Ducay – the Prized Terroir of Cariñena

About forty years ago, with the advice of a family of winemakers from Penedés, the Cooperativa Vinícola San Valero began to make cava on a limited basis and exclusively for its members. In April 1984, as a consequence of the great acceptance of the product, it established Bodega Gran Ducay to expand production and start a broader commercialization.

The municipality of Cariñena is one of the few from outside Catalonia that is part of the so-called Cava Region and which today constitutes the territory of the Protected Designation of Origin Cava.

In this way, the Gran Ducay cava, made using the traditional method of bottle fermentation, is one of the few that have been certified by the Regulatory Council of the Protected Designation of Origin Cava in Aragon. Purchase and learn more about Bodega Gran Ducay at, where currently, they have cavas of  with nine months of aging in the bottle, in white and pink. Later they’ll have reserve cavas with 15 months of aging in the bottle and finally, great reserves cavas, with a minimum of 30 months of aging in the bottle.

Grand Ducay Brut Nature Blanco Cariñena
SRP $10.99

Color: pale lemon, big bubbles, long lasting

Nose: fennel, gasoline, banana, banana peel,

Palate: bitterness, rubber, oysters, not as yeasty. Sue: ” I still get this petrol smell. Is that the soil, the grape, the typical smell of this wine, the region?”

Pairing:  I can totally see having this sparkling with a spicy asian meal. That was not the direction that we went in tonight. However John found himself having a religious exprience tasting the wine and the dessert pizza and the music that we were enjoying. The pairing while great with the brut, is so much better with the rosado. Sue: “after tasting this wine, I would totally pair it with a spicy Thai dinner.”


Grand Ducay Brut Nature Rosado Cariñena
SRP $10.99

Color: Pale pink, a real pale amber. not pink, not gold, on the pink side of amber.

Nose: Rose petals and petrol, While the petrol notes are not as strong as in the brut, they are still quite present. Fennel and fresh herbs, Sue, “Am I getting a hint of sage?” John found citrus flowers.

Is that just a characteristic of the grape, the method, or the soils?

Palate: Clean and refreshing, the herbasiousness comes through first followed by the petrol, then the fruit on the back end. Cherry and raspberry.

Pairing: John loved this with the dessert pizza. I found that the orange peel in the cherry reduction found a quality in the wine that made the two of them dance together. Sue sprinkled a bit of Garam Masala over the top of the pizza with a bit of cinnamon and honey which went so perfectly with the wine. This was by far the best with our dessert pizza. So perfect with the spices, fruit and creaminess of the ricotta base the cream cheese and honey marscarpone. Sue totally made up this dessert pizza tonight from I don’t know where, but it totally worked so well with this wine, making Sue think it might be nice with a bread pudding that is not too sweet. It is all about the spices and the wine that make the perfect pairing. These two together will WOW and audience.

Celebrities Celebrates the Rise of the Cariñena Indigenous Monovarietals

Nice corks, unbranded, all with very interesting labels. Do the labels tell a story– or it is up to us? The bride? The bridesmade? The slutty friend?

Celebrities Garnacha 2019 Cariñena
SRP $14.99 – 14.5% alcohol

Color:  Pink ruby sapphire, with a fushia rim, translucent

Nose:  Floral and fruit, very pretty nose. Carnation baking spices, super perfumey, John,”butterscotch, caramel” Gwen “red candied apples”. Smells sweet in a very nice way. Now that I have had food, I am not loveing this wine like I did before. It is just too fruity for me. Sue, “definately more of a cocktail wine.” With the pizza it is alright, but the pizza takes away the sweet fruit in the wine. The dinner pizzas had a herb forward quality that did not harmonize with the wine. Two of our pizza’s were an olive oil base. The wine was much better with the tomato sauce base. But even still, this is not a pizza wine.  Save this wine tapas, enjoy as a pre-dinner wine, or cocktail wine.

Palate: John. “It follows through with the flavor as well.” raspberry in the front of the palate, and rhurbarb on the finish. It is also candied apple, without being sweet. The tartness of the apple, apple skin and tannins. For being a 2019, it is surprisingly nice. It is all about the fresh fruit.

Pairing: Blue cheese is not a friend. It did not like the 5 year aged gouda, but could dance with the 2 year aged gouda. It did not like the blue stilton either. It does not care for cheeses that are too aged. After having a piece of 5 year aged gouda, John found apricot. I could not go there. Sue liked it with our grilled artichoke heart tapas. Great with the fennel pollen cured salami making the wine more intensley sweet and spicy. The bright acidity in the wine loves the fat.This wine is also fantastic with the dessert pizza making it a fantastic wine with the dessert.

Celebrities Old Vine Garnacha 2016 Cariñena
SRP $14.99;  14% alcohol

Color: Medium bodied, garnet, light fushia  rim

Nose: Red stone fruit. I got plum, Sue got cherry, and mint. Fresh herbs and fresh fruit. There is a bit of alcohol that comes through on the nose. A bit of rose petal in the background as well.

Palate: Super dry, acidic and tart, raspberry tart bright fruit. It does not have the candied apple sweetness on the nose that the 2019 had. Maybe a bit more caramel apple thatn candied apple. John loved this wine all on it’s own finding it big rich and bold.


Was this fruit picked earlier? Is it dryer and tarter because it has been aged a bit more? There are some interesting musky notes. Cigar, tobacco, pipe tobacco, maybe a bit of sulphur, flinty?

Pairing: Really fun with the two year aged gouda. The 5 year aged gouda is a bit to dry and sweet for the wine. They do not tango together well at all. Sue liked this with the roasted artichoke tapas. It is not a friend of Blue Stilton. It was alright with the squash sage pizza, but only because of the sage. It fought a bit with the sweetness of the squash. It really liked the pizza with olive oil, smoked mozzarella, olives, garlic and sundried tomatoes. It made the wine more fruity, easier to access. With the tomato based pizza it was heavenly. It loved the tomato, fresh bell pepper, garlic and salty olives.

Celebrities Cariñena 2017
SRP $14.99

Color: Medium bodied, garnet, very pale mauve or corral rim,

Nose:  Sue,, “Nice herbasious, eucalyptus nose” John, “It has a soft baby powder scent, I don’t know what that smell is. Sandelwood?”Tart cherry in the background. Loamy earthy, like you are in a dry area that just got a few drops of rain. Earl Grey, bergemont which came up after tasting the wine and then going back and tasting it.

Palate: This is a dry wine that is all about the mouthfeel. It is full of minerals, lots of salinity. Light to medium bodied. Dry from the tannins, not the acidity. It is almost like black tea tannins. The fruit is almost like dried cherries or cranberries. John went out to his truck to get his clean working gloves to show us what he was tasting.

Pairing: Sue,”The more that I have been eating food, the better this wine gets” Really good with the salami. John”it is really good with salty things.” Might be a bit Cab Francish. Pair it with what you might pair with Cab Franc. It handles fat well. This wine over and over again reminded me of Cab Franc. This wine liked the bell pepper, the onion, and the garlic in the pizza. All of the things that I am not fond of at all. But Sue and John found them to be very pleasing with the wine. For Sue, this was the wine that went the best with the meal. The dry tart flavors of the wine were enhanced by the flavors in the pizzas.

Celebrities – International Varieties and the Roles they Play in Cariñena

Celebrities Merlot 2018 Cariñena
SRP $14.99; 14.5% alcohol

Color: Deep rich color, garnet, mauve rim

Nose: I got a lot of vegetal notes, bell pepper, vegetal, and Sue agreed. There is sage mint, eucalyptus, cherry,

Palate: Cherry, cherry eucalyptus, cherry cough drop, bold tannins up front, cocoa on the finish.

Celebrities Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 Cariñena
SRP $14.99; 14.5% alcohol

Color: Medium density, deep red, dusty rose rim

Nose: Deep rich herbal vegetal notes, to Sue it smelled like Cab Franc and she had a hard time taking her nose out of the glass. Bell pepper, jalapeño jelly,

Palate: Vegetal palate up front with a raspberry plum finish. For Sue this was an easy drinking wine. I wanted food with it before I could truly enjoy it.

Celebrities Syrah 2018 –
SRP $14.99; 14.5% alcohol

Color: Red, blood red, brick on the rim, medium density

Nose: Red stone fruit, bright cherry to plum, cocoa, earth, musky smell,

Palate: Flat, harsh, dry, difficult to get your palate around. “What does it have to do with her? It’s a dog eat dog world, what does that mean?” We had a really difficult time finding anything positive about the palate on this wine (and we always try to find the positive in the wines we taste) There isn’t the blue fruit we are used to finding, no pepper notes.

Going to be honest, we were less fond of the international celebrities, much preferring the local ones, but our least favorite of all of the wines is the syrah from San Valero in Cariñena — fun label but not as big of fans of the wine inside.


 75 Years – Quality and Community – The Advantages of Co-Operation

NV 500 Manos Particular Cariñena
SRP $15-$20; 15% alcohol

500 Hands references all of the hands that contribute to the wine– the 500 members of the coop. The label includes names!

Color: Medium density, garnet, brick like rim

Nose: Baking spice, cherry, and herbal notes, lots of herbs, sage, eucalyptus, sandalwood as well.  Is there a different oak treatment in this wine?

Palate: Tart cherry, acidity, tannins, herbal elements as well. The finish has some of the bell pepper, but there is a bit of fruit and powdered cocoa. This wine really opened up over a few days and was best with lamb but also excellent with steak. This is a fantastic wine for the price– rich, complex, smooth enough for an American audience.

What else I learned about 500 Manos:

  • Particular means private or personal in Spanish, and this line of wines was inspired by a decades old tradition of growers making small batches of wine in their own cellars for their personal consumption with a part of the grapes they harvested each year. Many growers would draw a symbol on each barrel to indicate which wine it contained. Some of those symbols were incorporated in the labels of the Particular line.
  • This is a non-vintage blend. The best wines from several different harvests were used to create an ideal representation of the efforts of their growers. Since it is a new wine, the suggested retail price is settling out at $15-$18.
  • With grapes from all 500 growers represented in this bottling, Director of Winemaking Javier Domeque has quite a task to blend the barrels from several different vintages to create this wine.
  • San Valero’s growers have over 9,400 acres of vineyards. Some have larger holdings, but most have just over an acre of vineyards. San Valero, like other wineries in the area, have tasting rooms and tours available for visitors. It is only a 40 minute drive from the beautiful regional capital Zaragoza.
  • Quality control is a critical component to the success of a modern cooperative. The first step was educating growers that quality – not quantity – is the only way for San Valero to compete in the global wine market. The second crucial step was to centralize vineyard management with the viticulture director for the winery and create a grape pricing structure that rewards quality over quantity. They receive directives from the viticulture department so that they tend their vines according to best practices, and then they are paid for meeting those quality markers. Parameters such as vine age, yield (low), soil composition, pruning style (goblet vs. trellised), and grape variety are all used to provide economic incentive to get the best results.
  • There are good and bad examples in any winery model, and most experienced professionals understand that. There are advantages that cooperatives offer that resonate particularly with many professionals these days. Cooperatives can be crucial in maintaining economic opportunity in rural areas for small growers and newer generations, can provide resources to help be good stewards for the environment and help keep older vineyards from disappearing from lack of cultivation.


For more wines from Spain, check out these 5 paired with Paella! 


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