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27 February 2013

Spain: Garnacha / Garnatxa, red white and rosé

Following in the red-stained footsteps of my 'World Grenache Competition' series (part 1, part 2, part 3), this time we're turning the spotlight on Garnacha/Garnatxa from different parts of northeast Spain (Rioja, Aragon, Catalonia) with a little vinous wandering beyond the timeframe of the WGC event, which took place in Perpignan, south of France (Catalan side) recentlyMy favourites from the Garnacha-based rosados tasted in the competition are highlighted below, along with a few reds sampled/enjoyed in the afternoon or evening with food and some background info on this sumptuous variety in the regions of Aragón and Catalunya. I've noted any medals awarded and/or my 100-point style score as appropriate. Some of the other wines crossed my path last year but haven't seen the on-line light of day yet.

Rosé / rosado - Rioja

2012 Castillo de Albai Felix Solis Avantis - full-on cherry nose, fresh lively and lees-y with plenty of aromatic red fruits, zippy long finish with nice lingering fruit. Gold Medal winner. My score 87+
2012 Valcaliente rosado Ruiz Jimenez - fresh lees-y nose with attractive cherry fruit, crisp and zippy mouth-feel with long ripe vs tart finish, nice weight too vs tight and crisp. Silver Medal. 87
2012 Arnegui Felix Solis Avantis - almost red, rich and aromatic with ripe cherry fruit, full-bodied 'sweet' vs crunchy palate, impressive big rosé style even if a little heavy on the winemaking (then again, that is rosé, no?!). 85
2012 Vina Herminia Garnacha - even richer in colour than above, has plenty of extract and fruit, rich and full-on yet fresher and more elegant than above. Gold. 87

Aragón

2010 Las Rocas Garnacha viñas viejas Calatayud (Bodegas San Alejandro co-op winery, from 80 year-old bush vines) - lovely ripe minty blackberry fruit and spice, concentrated and powerful with 'sweet' vs peppery profile, silky tannins layered with tasty dark lush fruit and savoury-edged finish. Yum: 'modern' style but good with it. Silver Medal. UK/Ireland importer: Liberty Wines (I copied the photo above from libertywines.co.uk).
2009 Aquilon Garnacha Campo de Borja - lots of sweet coconut and chocolate oak vs lush fruit and layered tannins, rounded and ripe vs a touch of firmness; nice but rather oaky.
2010 Coto de Hayas Garnacha Centenaria Campo de Borja - touches of oak grain, lovely tobacco notes vs ripe sweet fruit, powerful yet with some fresh bite and grip too. Nice old-fashioned style. The 2011 vintage won a Gold.

Whereas only 10% of Spain's vineyards overall are planted with Garnacha, there's "much more in Aragón..." (also suggested as the variety's origin), Juan Cacho told us giving an overview of the region (professor of winemaking at Zaragoza University). Looking at the main 'DO's (appellation areas) within this province, Garnacha accounts for at least half of varieties planted in Calatayud and Campo de Borja (both on the western side), and nearly a third of the surface area in Cariñena yet just 5% of Somontano (more mountainous zone to the northeast). "Garnacha was declining but now we're replanting it," Juan explained, "it suits dry climates and low-yields. Old vineyards are now sought after. I think the increased investment in technology and winemaking have had a very positive effect on Garnacha in particular, in quality terms, and especially for the co-ops." There's also a new emphasis on export marketing e.g. joint Grenache promotions in North America. "We're looking for EU funds to work with people in the Roussillon etc. Home wine consumption is falling, so we have to look elsewhere," he concluded logically.
More Garnacha wines from Aragón here ("wines of the mo" Oct 2011) and here (Spain archive page).

Catalunya

2011 Viladellops Garnatxa Penedès - nice 'sweet' aromatic floral minty and spicy blackberry/cherry fruit, firm and peppery vs ripe and soft palate, powerful yet fairly easy going with tasty fruity finish. (The 2009 vintage won a Silver Medal).
Nuria Ruiz from the Catalan Wine Association added that "this vineyard was replanted, or rather grafted 28 years ago so the vines are 'older' than that. The wineries in our association export less than in Spain overall (meaning those thirsty Catalans drink most of it presumably), and a quarter of wine exported is red Garnacha." They promote them in e.g. the US, London, Switzerland, Barcelona and Perpignan (!); the average bottle price is €34, which is pretty high value wine.

2009 Domènech 'Teixar' Montsant (Garnatxa "pelut" = furry Grenache!) - showing a fair dose of coconut and vanilla oak, rich and ripe palate though vs nice firm and peppery finish, enticing tasty savoury fruit with layers of coco/choc oak, but not too much in the end.
2009 Domènech 'Furvus' Montsant (Garnacha & Syrah, 14.5%) - 'sweet' and maturing nose and palate vs grippy and structured, attractive lingering savoury fruit vs solid and tight still; good stuff. Silver medal (I tasted it in the special 'Grenache room' at last year's London International Wine Fair actually).
Josep Ignaci Domènech showed his first wine here representing the 'Terra de Garnatxes' group, which is funded by half a dozen wineries including him. Catalunya has diverse vineyard areas running from the coast right up to 700-1000 m altitude (2300-3300 ft roughly); the Montsant DO region lies inland and not far from the city of Tarragona. Josep told us "there are 5837 ha (approx 14,500 acres) of Garnatxa in Catalunya," splitting down as about 3900 of red, 1780 white "...plus the three other Garnachas..." ('grey', 'furry' and ..?).

El Miracle Cava rosado Vincente Gandia - attractive fruity style with a touch of intense toasty yeast-lees character.
2011 Herencia Altés Benufet Garnatxa Blanca - soft rounded and oily with interesting aniseed flavours, nice food white.

Parés Baltà organic wine and Cava producer based in the Penedès region.
2011 Indigena white Garnatxa (11.5%) - from La Plana Molinera, Finca El Subal at 700m altitude. Juicy lees-y and light, attractive mineral side vs honeyed fruit, crisp and delicate actually.
2009 Hisenda Miret (Finca Cal Miret, 400m) - nice juicy Garnacha style with peppery liquorice notes, full bodied and grippy with a touch of class too.
(Tasted in a special 'Grenache room' at last year's London International Wine Fair).

More Catalan Garnatxa here.

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