One can only be intrigued by a country that has been producing wine for hundreds of years. Yet, a 10-year old Wine Bible was virtually useless in describing the diversity of wines that come out of this land.
Spain was the theme for my first official wine tasting. Eleven guests blessed our home on Friday night bringing red and white wines from every corner of Spain. The $20 limit did nothing to limit the quality and complexity of the wines we tried that evening. It is the two Garnachas from D.O. Calatayud we tasted that I want to focus on in this article.
Traditionally, Garnacha has been a blending wine in Spain and France, where it’s called Grenache. It’s big fruit and low tannins help balance out other big-bodied wines. For this, there are many people who don’t know about it even though it’s one of the most propagated wines in the world. It is also one of the best bang-for-your-buck wines I have ever tried. I have found quality examples of this varietal for as low as $6 a bottle.
I think there are a number of reasons why it’s such a great value:
- It is one of the world’s most widely planted grapes.
- It has good wind and draught tolerance and can be planted in almost any type of soil.
- No one knows about it…yet.
My friend Blake believes that Garnacha is going to be the next Pinot Noir, and Malbec in terms of consumer popularity, which will drive up both its production and it’s price. Having been introduced to it just recently myself; I am excited for more of it. I am also apprehensive for what will happen to the quality and complexity of it, such as we enjoyed Friday night, as mass-production takes over and streamlines out its character.
The first Garnacha we tasted was a 2009 Las Rocas. More than 350 growers in the Bodegas San Alejandro co-operative contribute to this wine. Yet, it is a D.O. wine, which means the fruit all comes from the Calatayud region. The wine had a light cranberry color, but a bold scent of fresh berries, plum, cigar, anise, white chocolate and Andes mints. It tasted of white pepper, cooked plums, and a little spice. It was a medium-bodied wine and very well-balanced.
A 2010 Erodia was the second Garnacha we tasted. This wine was a lot fruitier than the Las Rocas and smelled of copper pennies, dark sweet berries, and anise. It was darker than the Las Rocas and a little meatier and tasted of berries, smoke, and Jam. It also had a great balance.
Both wines in the vintages we tasted earned 90+ points from Wine Advocate and both wines were priced just under $10.
These were just two of the excellent seven bottles we tasted on Friday night. I would recommend any of these.
- ATIO; 2008 Albarino from D.O. Rias Baixas (the only white Spanish wine we tasted)
- Losada; 2007 red blend from D.O. Bierzo **
- Portal; 2009 red blend from D.O. Terra Alta in Catalonia
- Hoya de Cadenas. 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon from D.O. Utiel-Requena
- Heredad Soliterra: 2006 red blend from D.O.Q. Priorat**
**my favorite two wines of the evening.
Photo link below courtesy of Randy Elrod. http://www.randyelrod.com
Many thanks to Blake for taking such time and consideration of each wine and leaving me with these wonderful descriptions to share of the color, aroma, and taste of them.