Week 6 – Grenache / Garnacha

Tasting Notes

Emma says: “I happen to know two fantastic winemakers who specialise in Garnacha in Spain. Fernando Mora and Norrel Robertson. Fernando is a ‘garagiste’ winemaker, the term us wine folks use for someone who makes wine in the equivalent of their back yard. His first wine was made in his bath, honestly it was. Given his small quantity production I was lucky to get hold of a bottle to review. We’re told you are able get one if you are interested – just contact us and we’ll tell you how.

Norrel is a Scotsman who moved to the remote Spanish region Calatayud, and is championing their old vine Garnacha. His wines are a little easier to track down: El Puno at Oddbins or Papa Luna at Majestic.

On to the grape in question! There is something unusual about the aroma of Grenache/Garnacha that I don’t quite get. Very Tutti Frutti, which is nice, but there is also an unusual sweet and sour note, with a slightly earthy character. Something I find a bit distracting and potentially I’m just over sensitive to it, because fellow tasters don’t say that as much as me. Plus because it can be a hot climate grape the perfume can be a bit high toned i.e. varnishy. So my previous experience is that I’m a lover of the taste of Garnacha rather than the smell. If I focus too much on the smell I don’t like it!

And on to the wine we are tasting today “Supersonico” by Fernando. This wine has some of that aroma character but thankfully in a gentle way and nice decent note of bright jammy plums – yum. The spicy character comes through in that way a mulled wine gives you a first hit of warming cloves and pepper. Good start.

On the taste this wine really come into its own. It has the sweet supple candied red fruits I expect, very smooth and dense in flavour. There is a lovely texture too; fine but mouth filling. The grape itself has relatively low tannin, so this means the old vine fruit  has delivered this extra layer of concentration. It has warming alcohol but it works well with the layers of spice which are a touch medicinal and liquorice sweet in taste. I love the depth of this wine it keeps giving new flavours, raspberry, cherry, plum, then a bit of root beer, prune, candied peel, star anise, all sorts of luscious sweet and spice flavours. The fruit is very much at the front of its flavour which to me shows the grape have that intensity and that the oak is gentle and not overwhelming.

And I was happy that it was only after drinking the wine I noticed it said “natural” on the label. Checking Fernando’s website I can see it means he’s limited the amount of sulphur he uses to make the wine. This is “bang on trend” and a bit of a controversial topic right now. Sulphur is a preservative and has a long tradition in winemaking. But it isn’t great for the health so many “natural” winemakers have tried stopping using it entirely. I like Fernando’s approach because the wine still tastes squeaky clean. If you’ve ever had the joy of tasting a “bad” natural wine which can have all sort of off flavours you’ll know what I mean…”

Andy says: “Confession time. Each week, we’ve written our notes independently before comparing. This week however, I cheated. I read Emma’s first.”

Nothing hammers home more how little I know or can taste. She’s throwing around terms like ‘prune’, ‘root beer’ and ‘star anise’. Sometimes I think she has access to some sort of wine tasting thesaurus, looks up ‘red wine’, and then chooses three or four synonyms just to mess with me. Red wine, well it’s probably on page one, white wine being alphabetically on page two. How easy is that?

So what can I taste? The only thing I feel confident about is ‘tannin’, in that they’re there, and are soft, gentle and I guess ’round’, as that’s what is usually said.

Andy tip time: You know that feeling when you drink red wine, and your tongue feels like it puckers and your cheeks or teeth go dry? That’s tannin. The firmer the ‘pucker’, the more tannin present.

I think I also get acidity, as my cheeks water heavily after drinking. Nose wise, it’s a bit old leather. I hate myself for typing that, but it’s definitely not ‘new leather’. A hint of VA (volatile acidity), and a wisp of farmyard, neither being unwelcome.

Buying Guide

Whoever voted for Grenache – you pesky people! I knew it would be difficult to decide on which Grenache we taste, and was hoping to leave it until later this year.

Why? Well Grenache is mostly used in blends. When we set out on the 52 grape challenge we said we wanted each week to taste a wine that best expressed the grape it was made from. Sticking with that idea, Spain and Australia are places that make 100% Grenache wines. We’re plumping for Spain, so look for Spanish Old Vine Garnacha from either Calatayud or Carinena regions.

These styles will be pretty similar to the Tempranillo and Barossa Shiraz in recent weeks, so if you do fancy a blend, look for a French Rhone blend – specifically the wines Côtes de Rhone, Gigondas or Vacqueras; which are all from the Rhone area. Look for a recent vintage too.

So go to your local wine shop, head to the Spanish or French red section, and find a wine with those names on the label. If you go French, check the back label in the hope it mentions Grenache is in the blend. If they write Grenache first in the list grapes it means it’s the predominant grape – which is perfect.

Alternatively ask your friendly wine merchant to help!

10 thoughts to “Week 6 – Grenache / Garnacha”

  1. Not a wine I’m familiar with in its single varietal state, so looking forward to this one.

    wine – La Garnacha 2015 Salvaje del Moncayo (Majestic £9)
    Bottle Says – wild berries, minerality

    Leather, tar and pepper, with the ghost of over-ripe strawberries on the nose.
    Pepper, tannins and a dry stone minerality hit the tastebuds first, with a mix of herbs and red fruits just coming through on the finish.
    It left a slightly bitter thyme residue on the tongue after a couple of glasses. It also drank heavier than its 14%, yet still felt medium bodied rather than full bodied

    The fruit in this one tastes ‘trapped’, which makes me think it would be best left to develop in the bottle for a while. There is an interesting, complex wine in here, and I would like to try an older/better example.

  2. Evening all,

    I’ve joined 52grapes recently so playing catch-up a little.

    I’ve started with the Garnacha as usually I’m a fan of Rioja, but haven’t tried this grape before.

    I got a Campo Viejo Rioja Garnacha 2016 from our local supermarket.

    My first thoughts were that it was still a little young to drink now, or perhaps I hadn’t let it breath long enough?

    It seems quite a light bodied red and “cherry” seemed to be the flavour that came through the most for me.

    Still getting through the bottle a day later. Maybe because it’s had time to breathe the cherry flavour isn’t as strong and seems to have blend with the other fruits a bit better.

    On the whole, think its a bit light for me for a Rioja. I bought 2 bottles, so will keep the other one for another time and try it again.

    Looking forward to trying the Pinot Gris next!

    1. Hey there, Great to have you on board. And on reading your note it sounds like you found a 100% Garnacha Rioja. Most Rioja is a blend of Garnacha, Tempranillo and other grapes like Mazuelo. So you did well to find this version. Garnacha can feel light bodied because it doesn’t have a lot of tannin, so I think that matches your note. And I know what you mean about “cherry” flavours – I think of it being very bright and tutti frutti in flavour. If you feel you’ve preferred other Rioja’s in the past it might be that you like the blended styles better. Hope that helps!

  3. Garnacha

    Sorry for a late review but I was in Spain last week. You would have thought Garnacha would have been the perfect grape to try while in Spain but, in most of the country, there is only one red wine for the natives – Rioja. Okay, some regions have dominant red wines; Ribero del Duero of course, but in the main, Rioja, as nature intended and without singling out a constituent grape.

    I was in a holiday resort so thought that perhaps there might be wider options and, indeed, there was Tempranillo and a few wines that locals thought that tourists would like, but no Garnacha.

    So I am back on the hunt for Garnacha. Our M&S is a food store with a soupçon of clothing, but it has a really disappointing range of wine. You would have thought that in one of the more affluent villages outside of London there would have been a major opportunity to sell interesting wines, but apparently not! There was Pinot Grigio in every possible country and region option, but no sign of any interesting wines.

    Well, at least Waitrose had on offer the 2016 The Cubist Old Vine Garnacha. 14.5% ABV.

    This wine is clean, bright and a fine ruby colour running to purple at the rim.

    I just love the nose, but how do I describe it? It reminds me of the old, French Grenache that used to be stewed to jam, and then some more. But the stewed character has gone to leave rich curranty aromas with hints of cabbage. Slightly closed, but not disappointingly so.

    Wow, the flavours fill the mouth on the first sip. Nice prickle of acid on the side of the tongue. After the first explosion of berry flavours the tannins hit to give structure to the wine.

    The finish is fairly flat but interesting with mellow fruit flavours.

    Really surprised at how much I like this wine. Just screaming for meat or cheese.

  4. I have to admit I struggled a bit with my wine. I think it must have been a case of not spending enough to get the good stuff. I went for ‘The Cubist’ Old Vine Garnacha 2016 from Catalayud (£9.99, Waitrose).

    I didn’t get much from the wine other than a 14.5% hangover. It was probably too young, but even so it was difficult to discern much on either the nose or the mouth. Perhaps a touch of brambly fruit and pepper – but I had to work hard to find them. Minimal tannin.

    It wasn’t actually unpleasant, just insipid and watery. Unblended Garnacha must be be a wine that needs and bit of age and where you get what you pay for.

  5. This week I chose a French 100% Grenache which comes from one specific plot of old vines in the Rhone- Vacqueyras, Domaine de Montvac Variation 2010 (£20)

    This is a very balanced, full flavoured and full-bodied red (14.5%). I couldn’t quite pinpoint the fruits but I’ll take a punt on blackberry and blackcurrant. A very pleasurable wine – yet again I wish i had bought more than one bottle. Sadly the 2010 vintage was such a good one there’s very little of it available now. Perhaps I’ll consider buying the 2016 vintage and keep it for a good few years before opening.

  6. Every town has its specialty, but here in Columbia, TN global wine choices are not in demand. Our choice was Benovia Grenache 2014, Sonoma Mountain, CA. It was a most enjoyable wine but quite lacking in distinctive characteristics. Perhaps a strawberry aroma, though subtle. A pleasant, soft berry and pepper flavor with a high alcohol content of 14.1%. Medium tannin and acid with a favorable balance. Also, the color was a dense violet/ruby hue. Mysterious and delicious…we highly recommend it.

  7. Sorry to miss last week’s Zinfandel fun, but I couldn’t really face it. Zin is way up there on my grape-prejudices-to-be-dealt-with list.
    And I have to admit I’m not a massive fan of single varietal Grenache wines either, especially the really jammy old-vine examples (Priorat being the exception, sometimes), so I went for a southern French blend.
    I choose a bottle of Terrasses du Larzac from Domaine La Jasse-Castel La Pimpanela 2014, an interesting blend of Grenache, Syrah and good old Cinsault from the around Montpeyroux in the Languedoc, in the foothills of the Massif Central.
    It’s showing some bottle age, and it seems to me this is exactly the right time to drink, with plenty of fruit and interest still, but nicely softened around the edges.
    Pale garnet in colour and punchy with tinned strawberry juice, orange peel, prune and a hint of wild, smoky countryside aromas. It’s nice and sweet in the mouth at first, then the acidity and tannin kick in as it fills your mouth. This is a lovely food wine, with good balance between richness, dryness, sweetness, bitterness and mouth-quenching freshness. There are some nice lingering notes of tar and poached berries on the finish too.
    I’ll never say never to Grenache, it’s far too interesting a grape for that, but experience has taught me to be wary of it bottled just on its own. Luckily it blends exceptionally well with the other grapes of southern France – Syrah, Mourvedre, Carignan and Cinsault – where it show off its many charms in myriad delightful ways.
    The really good news is, aside from Pinotage, I think we’ve exhausted my list of grapes I don’t especially care for, so it should be plain sailing for me from now on. Who knows, maybe I’ll find some more to dislike over the coming year…

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