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Spanish Garnacha Review, Fantastic Wines at Everyday Prices
Garnacha an absolute boon for your palette, er, wallet.
Welcome wine lovers,
I'm back after a month-long fling with Spanish Garnacha, a perfumed trist that has blossomed into a full blown love affair. There are a number of reasons I have long admired Spain's garnacha varietal: the consistent quality of production, the tremendous range of diversity in the wines produced both stylistically and regionally, the broad complexity, the fact that it's never overbearing, and of course, the approachable price tags. Twenty garnachas ranging from $6.99 to $14.99 were sampled during this exercise, a labor of love indeed, and the results only reinforced what I've come to know, that garnacha is truly one of the most underrated wines in the world, with remarkable balance across the board(all of Spain for that matter). It is easy to see how it was adopted into and has become the dominant varietal of France's acclaimed Rhone Valley(grenache en francais).
Ten years ago, you would have been hard-pressed to put together a flight of Spanish garnacha on short notice, but now that many more international wines have worked their way into the american marketplace, especially online, the variety and values are there for the taking. It has been a long time since I did a comprehensive single varietal, value wine study and encountered less than 10%(2 of 20) that were duds, or seriously flawed wines. That makes approaching the purchase of a value garnacha a much less risky proposition than a value pinot noir or cabernet sauvignon per say. That's security. So, without further delay, here are the top five value garnachas in no definitive order.
2009 Bodegas Vinae Mureri "Xiloca" Garnacha Vino de la tierra Ribera del Jiloca $9.99
This Aragonian wine was immediately reminiscient of past tastings of much more heralded wines from Monsant and Priorat, celebrated provinces located in nearby Catalonia. The reason for this most certainly lies in the geographic similarities: mountainous, rocky, low yeilding slopes. Ruby red in color, this earthy and herbacious wine is laden with dark cherry and black olive, velvetty cassis and a subtle smokiness that highlights a mineral background. Medium bodied with a bright acidity and refined tannins. Drinking well now.
2010 Bodegas Borsao "Tres Picos" Garnacha Campo de Borja $14.99
There was so much to like about this wine. What a great example of how diverse this varietal can be. The dark purple color is indicative of this wines rich flavors and dense aromas. Ripe dark berries(pick your favorite dark berry, it's in here), sweet licorice, roasted fare, hibiscus and more. Take out a pen, there's a lot in here to identify. Perfectly firm tannins carry on and on and on in a mesh of fruit, oak and allspice. Full in body, but really balanced and clean. An absolute go to wine for all occasions that you can actually cellar for 5 - 10 years.
2011 Cva Zestos Old Vine Garnacha Vinos de Madrid $8.99
Another fine example of the diversity that exists within this varietal. It seems the possible manipulations of garnacha are endless for winemakers. This wine never saw an oak barrell, yet it has an everpresent smokiness that meshes with full plum, racy raspberry flavors, and an alluring graphite. Tighly constructed, brightly acidic and very dry. Your nose will just want to keep diving into your glass. Fleshy red fruits, a baked pie on the windowsill if you will. A really fun wine.
2010 Castillo de Monserran Garnacha Carinena $7.99
I marvel at the quality for the money. Medium bodied, with floral, dark fruits and a background rounded out with oak aging. There's a meatiness and balance to this wine that one wouldn't associate with this price point. Ripe and juicy with a dry permeating finish. A total crowd pleaser, from the cab-set to the french-only drinkers, this one has wide ranging appeal and would pair well with roasted anything.
2007 Artazu "Artazuri" Garnacha Navarra $10.99
Okay, let's start with the extra bottle time. 2007 it is, so it's no surprise that this was one of the more developed wines in the group. This is an ample, full-bodied wine that has a slightly chalky mouthfeel, elements of musty, dusty wine cellar and plenty of fruit to go around. Blackberry and dried black cherry are prevalent throughout. The aging has been done for you, you got to love that. You normally pay a premium for older vintages, not the case here. This is a meat lover's dream. Navarra borders Rioja and this wine carries many of the same characteristics of a classic Rioja, dark, bold and very dry.
2010 Espelt "Vielles Vignes" Garnacha Emporda $12.99
From the Costa Brava, east of Barcelona, this wine is perfectly balanced with a luxurious mouthfeel and a striking complexity. Blackberry jam is there from nose to tonsils, but not in a fruit bomb way, in that fine French pastry way. Perfumed pomegranate and fresh cherry with the fragrant bouquet of a vibrant garden. Supple tannins accentuate the wonderful array of flavors. Sniffing away, I was calculating how much more I was going to buy even before my first taste. Mouthwatering, literally.
I can't stress this enough, value wines($15 and under) of this quality, complexity and balance are extremely rare in the other European and Domestic marketplaces. Whereas in Spain, whether it is due to economic distress, cultural philosophy or responsible winemaking, they are the expected norm. From Costa Brava in the northeast, through Aragon, Navarra and down to Madrid, these selections highlight the wide-ranging winemaking styles of each fascinating region. Spanish garnacha is my new mistress and she'll be hanging on my arm at all of the parties and dinners this holiday season. People will be saying wow, what is this, and for me, that is one of the most gratifying aspects in the shared experience of enjoying wine with friends, old and new. Cheers!