Aragon’s Cariñena and Castles + Olive Anchovy Sammies #WorldWineTravel

2 wines from Carinena

Located south of France’s Languedoc-Roussillon the northern Spanish region of Aragon is famous for castles, the Camino, and Cariñena.

Before joining the main Camino de Santiago Compostela, the Camino del Ebro starts at the river’s end in the Mediterranean then passes through the heart of Aragon and Cariñena’s major city of Zaragoza. The Camino Aragones is also a road less traveled alternative to the Camino Frances between Somport and Puente del Rei. It begins in the rugged, high altitude Pyrenees, travels through forests, open spaces, and small villages, and showcases plenty of medieval history.  Sounds perfect to me!

And yes that medieval history includes plenty of CASTLES and CATHEDRALS. 

The Spain Heritage Network offers this guide to seven of the best castles to visit in Aragon in two parts with part one more north and part two more south: The castles of the Kingdom of Aragon (II). Some of these castles have served many purposes over the years including palace, prison, barracks, cemetery and residence — and some you can stay in like is the Parador Hotel.

Also of note: Mudéjar architecture of Aragon which is recognized by UNESCO and dates back to the 12th to the 17th century with over one hundred architectural monuments to visit today featuring elegant decorative eight sided towers. 

Cariñena is both a monovarietal grape and a region in Spain–one of the most historical in the world, with Cariñena its native variety, cultivated in Cariñena as far back as the 3rd century BC, when its inhabitants used to drink wine mixed with honey. 

While Cariñena may be the eponymous grape of the region, it’s also famous for its Garnacha. Less well known is that 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.

Read about two Cava from Cariñena here and here’s more about Cava from Catalonia.

Find out more about Wine Tourism in Aragon.

A year ago, we tasted a series of wines from San Valero in Cariñena for Wine Studio  so when I found four wines from the region for today’s exploration of Aragon, we decided to revisit. 

4 affordable wines from Carinena


  • 2018 Valderba Blanco

  • 2018 Esteban Martin D.O.P. Carinena


  • Iberico Cheese

  • Anchovy Olive Walnut Sandwich

  • Citrus Salad 

Anchovy tapenade sandwich

Sue created the sandwich following this inspiration which draws from several ingredients famous from Aragon: “Fresh cheese from Burgos, anchovies from Santoña, black olives from Aragón and walnuts from Extremadura.”

Sue made the tapenade which she slathered on fresh soft bread. Then she layered burrata, Himalayan salted roasted walnuts, anchovy fillets, and topped with micro-greens. I preferred mine open face while Sue enjoyed hers with its top on.

This is possibly the best sandwich I’ve ever had in my life! 

But did the sandwich go with the wines?


Valderba Blanco is made from Chardonnay

2018 Valderba Blanco
ABV 12.5% 
SRP $10
purchased for $5 at Grocery Outlet

 Located in northeastern Spain, near the city of Zaragoza in Aragón south of La Rioja, Finca Aylés deep roots link to the Middle Ages. The original estate was divided, but in the 1980s, the Ramón Reula family reunified various small estates from the original Finca Aylés, and today the estate has 60 acres of vineyards with wines made by owner and winemaker Inmaculada Ramón who “wants to show in a very honest way the potential of the fruit cultivated in Zaragoza, Aragón.” 

While not identified as organic, the winery reports “We are starting to see results regarding mulching and vigour.” 

The eye-catching artsy label only identifies the wine as “Blanco” but a little research revealed that the grape is Chardonnay, which surprised us as it’s not typically tasting of that grape– which could be a good thing if you’re an ABCer (all but Chardonnay). However, Chardonnay is one of the top five white wine grapes grown in the region. This wine was the first vino de Pago of Aragon.

Color: Golden, Daffodil, Amber

Nose: Sulphur, petrol, minerals, salinity, pollen, creekside, smells like a warm summer day at the swimming hole. Unusual and interesting. 

Palate: Lots of salinity, lemon, grass, jicama, citrus blossom, neroli oil, nice richness, clean.

Pairing: The sandwich was fantastic with the wine. Fruit was not present in the wine when just sipping on the own, the salty sandwich brings out nice peach flavors in the wine. Just all right with the Iberico cheese, not a terrible pairing, but neither made each other shine. Nice with oyster, not a bam pairing that oysters and certain white wines can be, but it brought out lovely peach notes in the wine. Very nice with our salad. it loved the bit of tangerine and avocado with citrus honey vinegarette. 

Garnacha from Carinena

2018 Esteban Martin D.O.P. Carinena
ABV 13.5% 
85% Garnacha, 15% Syrah
SRP $15
under $10 purchased at Grocery Outlet

About 30% of their vineyards grow organic grapes. In 2001 they pioneered the use of pheromones, and now do ozone spraying, an eco-friendly treatment that is already in use in 40% of their vineyards. They also have vegan certification.

Color: Plum, fuchsia rim 

Nose: Lovely nose, rose petals, vanilla bean, raspberry preserves, baking spices

Palate: Rich and dry, tannins seem to be from the fruit, not overly oaked, nice ripe tannins, black pepper, loam, oak forest, black current, salinity. This is not necessarily a sipping wine; it yearns for food.

Pairing: Would be great with lamb, a grilled burger, fabulous with the richness, and peppery notes of the Iberico cheese. Great with our sandwich, the sandwich is so complex in flavors which harmonizes nicely with the wine, the garlic and the walnuts, and the salty anchovies, with the rich creamy cheese, all so perfect with the wine. With food the baking spices on the nose come out on the palate. Loves the walnuts, avocado and cheese in the salad, the citrusy bites in the salad fight a bit much with the wine. The sandwich on its own is quite intense, but with the wine it is so fantastic. 

this sandwich though…

More stories and wines from Aragon:

Twitter chat discussion questions — follow the hashtag #worldwinetravel: 

  • Welcome to the #WorldWineTravel chat on the Wines of Aragon, Spain! Introduce yourself, and where you are tweeting from. Share a link to your blog if applicable.
  • Q1  So, we’re traveling to Aragon, Spain today with the #WorldWineTravel group.  Have you been to this area in real life?  Please share your experience.
  • Q2  Did you write a post for today’s event? If so, please share a link to your blog if you wrote on the topic today. #WorldWineTravel
  • Q3  Carignan is the most popular of wines from Aragon. Did you open a wine from there or another area of Aragon? #WorldWineTravel
  • Q4  Did you pair your wine with food or a meal? How did the wine pair with your chosen dish? #WorldWineTravel
  • Q5 Did you choose a recipe or food from Aragon, another area of Spain or somewhere completely different? Is there anything you would do differently next time. #WorldWineTravel 
  • Q6 This area of Spain borders the Languedoc-Roussillon area of France.  Did you notice any similarities in the wines?  #WorldWineTravel
  • Shoutout to #WorldWineTravel bloggers: @martindredmond @culinary_cam @ArtPredator @ChildrenofGrape @pairchifoodwine @tsteffes @sommstable @vignetocomm @CrushedGrapeChron @savortheharvest @foodwineclick @cookingchat @linda_lbwcsw @WendyKlik 
  • Q7  Any final thoughts about the Wines of Aragon? I hope you had fun exploring this area of Spain. #WorldWineTravel

Next month World Wine Travel explores the Basque wines and region with host Jill Barth.  Join us!


9 thoughts on “Aragon’s Cariñena and Castles + Olive Anchovy Sammies #WorldWineTravel

  1. When researching Aragón for our trip, I’d read about all the castles through the Heritage network but just not enough time. Guess that means a trip back. Cava from Cariñena is on the list, as is making your sandwich (open face 😉 Looove anchovies!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You will love this sandwich if you love anchovies! When we went to France to compete in the Blind Wine competition, we focused on wine. But when I went to Europe with my son, he was more interested in exploring castles and cathedrals!


  2. It’s so fun to see how the different flavors in the food tease out different flavors in the wines. Love all the historical details as well!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, that sandwich! Super simple — I’m sure it was better because Sue made the tapenade homemade but you could do something like this at. picnic and people’s minds would be blown! And so good paired with such affordable wines, too.


  3. How amazing that these wines were available at “Grocery Outlet” and at such an amazing price.
    The salad and sandwich look delicious and bright and make me want to try these flavor combinations.
    I also really love the history on the castles.

    Liked by 1 person

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