Meet Garnacha: there’s more to the grape & the wine than you know
by John Dunham, advicesisters.com wine and spirits columnist
When the Advice Sisters are invited to a Snooth.com virtual wine tasting, the answer is always “yes!!” Once we are scheduled for a Snooth.com virtual wine tasting we immediately tell friends and family about this eagerly anticipated event. A virtual wine tasting is always an opportunity to drink some wines we might not have heard about, and learn about their production and heritage. For me, as The Advice Sisters wine & spirits columnist, it’s also an opportunity to get some opinions and additional notes from the guests.
Garnacha is an interesting topic, so I knew that the September 18 Snooth virtual tasting of the Wines of Garnacha ( sponsored by The Wines of Granache ) was going to be of particular interest. The tasting was hosted by Master Sommelier, Corkbuzz owner and friend of Snooth, Laura Maniec with Best Spanish Sommelier 2014, Guillermo Cruz. The tasting featured a range of 5 wines Spanish Garnacha wines.
While we love virtual tastings because they bring experts like Ms. Maniec and Mr. Cruz right into our house. Unfortunately, as with technology in general, sometimes there are gremlins and bugs that can lead to problems. This is exactly what happened to us during this tasting as we we had issues with the sound and mostly heard garbled noises instead of the commentary from the experts. We did follow along on the computer on Snooth.com’s live message board where we could see the comments of other virtual tasting participants and interact with them. Even though we were unable to hear the experts, we were still able to host a successful wine tasting.
So what is Garnasha and why do we now love it?
Garnacha (called Grenache in France) is one of the most widely planted red wine grape varieties in the world. Granache Blanca, a white wine grape that is thought to have evolved from the red varietal is also planted in the same region. Red Grenache is found in a variety of different wines, particularly French Rhone wines like Châteauneuf-du-Pape where it is typically over 80% of the blend. Spanish Garnacha tinta (red Garnacha) is a key part of national production, dominant in the DOC/DOQ wines of Rioja and Priorat and in the Navarra and southern Aragonese and Catalonian regions. White Granache is most common in wine from Spain’s northeastern regions, and in French Rhone blends.
Both the red and white varietals have distinct and somewhat similar flavor profiles featuring dominant berry an strawberry fruits and some spicy notes. Whites tend toward the citrus and herby.
Without the audio for the tasting, we were on our own, but this is in many ways part of the fun of hosting a tasting. We provided a range of cheeses to sample with the wines. I find that generally cheese matches well with region, so I included a Spanish goat cheese, along with the standard brie and fresh mozzarella that I always use for tastings. I find that these blander cheeses do not impact the palate and allow us to better understand the notes in the wine. One of our friends brought a range of seafood including clams, shrimp, and some crab puffs which paired especially well with the white Garnacha.
In hosting any tasting there are some important things to remember. First, tastings are educational but they should also be fun. In addition, since unlike at professional events (like walk around tastings) few of the guests at a home wine tasting will spit out wine. So over time, people will become a bit more lubricated and notes – as well as attention spans – will shorten. This is why we focus on trying to understand the basics of the region first, and then move on to the specific wines. In that sense we first discuss the region, where and how the grapes are produced and wines are made, and then sample our first couple of wines with the food that is at the tasting.
As host we like to take notes throughout the tasting, and many of our more seasoned guests will do the same. We actually do research on the price points and availability of the wine the following day and then send that information along with the basic notes from each wine to our guests the following day. Virtual wine tastings usually help enhance this experience as we are able to ask experts questions as we go, and we are able to get more information on the provenance of the specific wines.
During this tasting we sampled five wines: Clos Dalian Garnacha Blanca 2014; Beso de Vino Old Vine Garnacha 2014; Las Rocas Garnacha 2013; Coto de Hayas Garnacha Centenaria 2013; and Secastilla 2010. Since we had no audio, this review relies on my notes.
Clos Dalian Garnacha Blanca 2014: (About $9.99) This wine is from Terra a high altitude area of Catalonia in northern Spain. It is a 100 percent White Garnacha varietal, and had a light gold green color. The nose was redolent with peach and minerals. The palate was had more acid and minerality that one might expect from a White Garnacha but feathered the underlying citrus with an overlying white peach. This wine paired exceptionally well with the seafood that our friend brought to the tasting and was probably the best value of the entire tasting.
Beso de Vino Old Vine Garnacha 2014: (About $9.00). This wine, which is from the Carinena DO of Aragon in northern Spain. It is a 100 percent Garnacha wine, and was garnet in color. The nose featured strawberry and vanilla with a hint of Ivory soap. On the palate, the wine was strong with red berries with a little pepper on the finish. For a very young wine the Old Vine Garnacha had very soft tannins and a good structure. It is a very approachable and reasonably priced wine and makes an excellent choice for fall nights by the fire-pit.
Las Rocas Garnacha 2013: (About $13.00). Las Rocas, which means the rocks in English, is produced in the town of Miedes, about 55 miles north of Madrid in the Calatayud winegrowing region which has soils that are stoney, loose, and with a high lime content, which makes the name fitting. The wine was deep red in color with a peppery nose. There was some rubber on the nose as well which found its way into the palate which was dominated by a sweetness up front. The wine itself was not fruity thouh, but somewhat mineral and spicy, though some of our guests reported notes of cherry cola. The wine was a bit closed though, with a good level of astringency, so it is likely that age will mellow the wine some. For now, this should be paired with more gamey meats like lamb or venison, and Snooth.com finds that it pairs perfectly with a gourmet or homemade pizza.
Coto de Hayas Garnacha Centenaria 2013: ($13.00) The fourth wine from the tasting comes from the Campo de Borja (DO) of the Aragon region. This wine is made from very old, low-yielding Grenache vines grown in small mountainous plots. It was almost purple in color with a fruity nose featuring strawberry, cinnamon and vanilla. The palate was very fruity, even sweet, up front, almost like overripe strawberries, not funky at all but sweet. The tannins were strong but balanced suggesting that this wine could use some age. While some of our guests felt that this wine was a bit flat, it really seems as if it is a matter of the wine being closed as it is very young. It will probably show much better in a few years, and at $13 a bottle, it is well worth holding to see how it matures.
The final wine in the tasting was Secastilla 2010 ($28.00) the most expensive and oldest of the wines we sampled. Produced with 100 percent Grenache grapes from very old vines from the Secastilla Valley, this wine has received rave reviews from not only Snooth.com, but other tasters. Bottled in extremely heavy glass, the wine was dark red to purple in color, with a nose that was uniquely like Windex. We felt that these chemical notes were in the wine, and believe that our bottle had not been stored well, or was adulterated in some way, something that does happen even with the best of wines. All of the reviews of this wine are excellent with Snooth.com calling it the purest expression of Garnacha grapes grown at altitude saying that it has aromas of sharp red fruits such as cherries and wild fruit such as blackcurrants, accompanied by a background of good toasted wood reminiscent of chocolate and Havana cigars. The sensations perceived by the nose are echoed in the mouth, providing a satisfying, full flavor with a long finish.
Virtual wine tastings, like those offered by Snooth.com provide an excellent opportunity to try different regions and wine types, and they make a great occasion to have a few friends over to share dinner, wine, conversation and their thoughts. Why not join us and try one for yourself as they’re really a lot of fun! If you decide you join in on the next Snooth.com virtual wine tasting, we are logged in as “advicesisterA” and would love to chat with you.