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.
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!