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Spain’s Garnacha Grape

by Eunice Fried

Jan 1, 2017
January 2017

IN FRANCE, THE UNITED STATES and Australia, the grape is called Grenache. In Spain its name is Garnacha. And it is known by a variety of other names depending on where it is planted, ranging from Italy to Mexico to Morocco to Croatia and beyond. It is one of the world’s most widely planted grapes, yet it is not well-known as a wine. The main reason: Most often used as part of a blend, its name does not appear on the label.

One country, however, treats the grape with great respect. Spain makes 100 percent Garnacha and thus labels it as Garnacha. While the grape grows in several parts of the country, its finest examples come from five wine regions in northeast Spain: Calatayud, Cariñena, Terra Alta, Campo de Borja and Somontano. And while wineries make Garnacha as a white, rosé and red wine, most of it is red. Garnacha is a low-yielding grape that generally makes a wine with a medium tannin level and medium acidity.

Among whites I recently tasted, I recommend Lafou Els Amelers Garnacha Blanca 2015 ($40) — rich, deep-flavored, spicy with a mineral quality and a pleasantly lingering finish.

For an amazingly good value, try the red Las Rocas de San Alejandro 2013 ($14), made 100 percent of Garnacha from grapes grown on 40- to 60-year-old vines. It presents a vibrant color, lots of forward fruit, hints of cherries and berries and subtle tannins.

Particular Garnacha Viñas Centenarias 2012 ($26), also made 100 percent from the grape, is a red wine of limited production from the winery’s oldest vines. Smooth, full-bodied and with soft tannin and a tantalizing spice in the aroma, it proves an elegant wine.

Pirineos Garnacha 2013 ($30) is rich and deep-flavored with powerful, forward fruit flavors, especially of cherries and blackberries; a touch of mint in the nose; a pronounced minerality; and excellent balance. At 3 years of age, it is still in its infancy.

An old grape. A rather new discovery.

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