Monday, September 19, 2016

Looking for Crazy Value? Grab Some Garnacha

Grenache (a.k.a. Ganacha in Spain) is one of the most widely planted grape varieties in the world. Long a staple in blended red wines of Spain and Southern France, this Mediterranean-climate-loving red grape is more and more frequently being bottled solo.

For both wine nerds and newbs, varietal Garnacha from Spain is a category of wines worth looking into. Garnacha is a dynamic grape, which is well-suited to refreshing roses, lighter style reds for early consumption, concentrated reds for aging, fortified wines, etc. Many of these wines can bring ridiculous value to the equation. It aint easy to find a thought-provoking California Cabernet for $12, ditto for Oregon Pinot, Aussie Shiraz, and on and on — but Spanish Garnacha has this price range covered.

Since the grape has such a long history in Spain, winemakers have tons of old vines from which to source bold, concentrated fruit. The Wine Economics Research Centre estimates Spain alone has more than 170,000 acres planted to Garnacha (and about 5,500 planted to the Garnacha Blanca). And the economics of scale and demand mean a lot of these wines are able to reach American shores with $8-$15 price tags.

Last year, I tasted through some solid and inexpensive Garnacha to celebrate Garnacha Day, one of those seemingly random days of the year when purveyors of wine deem it appropriate celebrate a certain type of wine. (No excuse needed.) On September 16, I did it again, celebrating #GarnachaDay with an online tasting led by Master Sommelier and Corkbuzz owner Laura Maniec and Master of Wine Christy Canterbury. We tasted through five wines, three reds and two whites (made from the white version of Garnacha).

Talk about quality to price ratio! These five wines should be on by-the-glass lists all over the place.

Ive posted my notes on the wines below.

2015 Clos Dalian Terra Alta - Spain, Catalunya, Tarragona, Terra Alta
Medium straw color. Bright and airy aromas of green apples, apricot and white peaches, along with cucumber, flower shop and sea salt. Crisp but fleshy texture, on the palate this shows crunchy green apples and pears with notes of cut flower stems, sea salt and raw almond. Very pleasant. (86 points)

Medium gold colored. Tons of aromatics: apricots, pears, glazed apple, honeyed tea, white flowers, almond and sea salt. Creamy, smooth texture but zesty acidity. Gorgeous fruit (white peach, apricot) along with honey, almonds, cinnamon. The oak influences are matched by wildflowers and sea salt. A long, plush wine but the acidity tingles on the finish. I’m usually a bit skeptical of oak in Grenache Blanc, but this one nails it. Delicious, complex, intriguing stuff. Insane value. (90 points)

Juicy ruby color. Smells of tar, coffee and cola on top of jammy raspberries and deeper black cherries. Medium-bodied, soft tannins, fresh acidity – an easy-drinking appeal but plenty of flavor: raspberry jam, black cherry, mixed in with cola, coffee, vanilla and charcoal. Fun, juicy, easy-drinking, crowd-pleasing stuff to drink early. (85 points)

2015 Altovinum Evodia - Spain, Aragón, Calatayud
Vibrant purple color. Lots of charcoal, grilled herbs, smoke and musk on the nose, along with rich black cherry and blackberry jam. Full-bodied approach, chewy tannins, medium/low acidity, a bold and saucy wine but full of flavors: dark, jammy fruit, roasted herbs, violets, coffee and dark chocolate. A gutsy, teeth-stainer but so delicious. You can spend twice this amount on similar wines and get a lesser wine. Crazy value. (87 points)

Rich purple color. Smoky nose – cedar, dark roast coffee, dark chocolate on top of currants and black cherries. A bold fruity wine but plenty of structure and earthy complexity. Good grip from the tannins yet bright acidity. Tart currant and black cherry with earth, a nice herbal kick, cola, sweet herbs, dark chocolate. Shows potential from improvement but delicious now. (88 points)

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