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“Garnacha, Widely Grown and Increasing in Quality.”

Garnacha, otherwise known as Grenache in France and outside Spain, has for years been used as a “blender” grape. There are various clones of the grape, including “Tinta” (black) and “Blanca” (white, called Grenache Blanc in France)). Garnacha Tinta is the most widely planted grape in Spain, with dark skin and light flesh, and was traditionally used as backbone filler to other “nobler” grapes such as Tempranillo. It can be used for Rosado or Red wines where the acidity is usually quite low and the grape can provide very high alcohol levels. When not controlled by careful wineries, the grape can be very high yielding, producing “vigorous” (sometimes rough) wines.

Garnacha is ubiquitous in many of Spain’s wine regions including La Rioja (blended with Tempranillo, Graciano and Mazuelo); Empurdá- Costa Brava (an appellation located in Spain’s northeastern corner, on the border with France. A great example is the fantastic Castillo de Perelada range of wines, where it is blended with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cariñena); Calatayud (a sub region of Aragon); Cariñena, Campo de Borja (the Best known winery being Coto de Hayas, basing all of their quality reds on Garnacha, including the “Garnacha Centenaria 2000” made with 100% Garnacha and 100 year old vines); Penedés (namely as the main component in Miguel Torres’ highly successful “Sangre de Toro” brand); Costers del Segre; Somontano (the beautiful wine region in the Pyrenees), Utiel Requena (the wine region closest to Valencia, with the Best winery being Bodegas Gandia who produce a lovely example of blended Garnacha in their “Hoya de Cadenas” brand).

The areas where Garnacha is starting to take center stage, though, is definitely in Priorat and Navarra, two of Spain’s Best wine regions with top-notch producers. In Navarra, there are many vineyards with Old Vine Garnacha growing, which produces inky, full flavoured blockbusters. Top wineries using Garnacha include Señorio de Sarriá (a stunning winery located in the 13th century town of Puente la Reina), Bodegas Irache (founded in 1891, and with many old vines. They use Garnacha for their Rosado and as a blender for their Crianzas and Reservas), Julian Chivite (better known for the ever popular “Gran Feudo” range of wines, again using Garnacha for Rosados and for blending the reds), Bodegas Ochoa (located in the gorgeous village of Olite, with its fairy tale castle), and Guelbenzu (aristocratic winery, established in 1851, making very top end wines). In Priorat, Garnacha is being used by the regions Best winemakers including Alvaro Palacios (who uses old vine Garnacha in his famed wines including Les Terrasses, Finca Dofi and L’Ermita), Rene Barber’s Clos Mogador (where it is blended with Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon to make sensuous, velvety wine) and Scala Dei, where the “Negre Scala-Dei” is made with 100% Garnacha.

Try these delicious examples of Garnacha:

Martinez Bujanda Reserva, Selected Harvest: 100% Garnacha, 18 months in American oak, absolutely luscious and unique wine made from the winery’s prime vineyards in Oyón, Logroño and Ausejo. Martinez Bujanda is the only house in La Rioja making a complete varietal Garnacha, and this is due to the winemaker’s dedication and faith in the grape. The result is a deep red cherry color, powerful and aromatic nose and fresh explosion of red fruits on the palate.

Read more about Martinez Bujanda

L'Ermita: Alvaro Palacio’s star winemaker and his top of the line star wine. L’Ermita is a blend of 80% Garnacha (with amazing 100 year old vines), 16% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 4% Cariñena. The wine spends minimum 15 months in oak, and at 13.8% is not for the faint hearted! It is suitable for very long aging for those who can wait. Robert Parker, the most famous wine critic in the world, rated the 1998 vintage of L’Ermita with 97 points.

Read more about Alvaro Palacios

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Cellar Tastings - Detailed information on gourmet and culinary activities, wine and winery information, food and wine tours and other forms of unique travel for the Gourmand, and various fun and educational events related to the world of food and wine.

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