Friday 19th is #GrenacheDay, a date celebrated worldwide since 2010, when the Grenache Symposium Association managed to gather winemakers and communicators from all over the world to highlight the grape’s versatility and cast aside its second-class reputation. We now have the G-Day, which takes place on the third Friday of September, and the G-Nights, when different producers gather to taste their Grenache wines. The Catalan association Terra de Garnatxas, for instance, holds one of those parties alongside the Alimentaria fair held in Barcelona. For this year's G-Day, they have organized tastings at different wineries whereas restaurants across Catalonia will be offering Grenache-based wines to their clients.
To find out more about other events taking place worldwide, go to the Grenache Association website. Two hours west of Madrid, Bodega Garnacha Alto Alberche in Navalengua (Gredos, Ávila) will match wine and literature in an event entitled “Wine and words” and the "Ruta de la Garnacha" (Genache Route) in Aragón has organized various tastings and activities throughout the weekend.
Those who would rather uncork a bottle can choose among a striking diversity of Spanish regions. Grenache wines -mostly reds, although whites can also be described as an exciting category right now- have taken an enormous qualitative leap over the past decade. Regions such as Gredos have been revived; there is a renewed interest in single varietal wines across Catalonia and Rioja, but also in areas where Grenache has traditionally been underrepresented and quality has improved significantly in Aragón, specially since the turn of the century.
These advances have been possible despite the fact that Tempranillo has replaced Grenache as the most planted red variety in Spain. Tens of thousands of Grenache vines have been uprooted, including ancient vineyards and biotypes that cannot be recovered. This loss is counterbalanced by the new and enormous diversity of Grenache-based quality reds. Check out our recommendations listed below -all of them are great value wines under €12 (prices quoted are for Spain, but many online retailers sell across Europe and websites such as Wine Searcher list stores in other countries).
Borsao Selección 2013 (Campo de Borja). Produced by Bodegas Borsao, it’s not a 100% Greanache as it includes up to 30% Syrah and Tempranillo but it offers great value. What I like most about this wine is the fact that it is unpretentious and focuses on providing loads of perfectly ripe fruit (blackberry, plums). It’s very well-made and the price is unbeatable. Fruit is so well-defined that you would think it would be more expensive.
Artazuri 2013 Tinto (Navarra). This young red made at Artazu in Navarra (in the subarea of Valdizarbe) by Rioja-based Artadi is our wine of the week thanks to its delicate Grenache scent. It also deserves to be included in this list because of its great value. I think this is an especially outstanding vintage, very expressive and aromatic with distinctive violet and lavender notes. A “blue” wine that reflects how elegant a Grenache grown at high latitude can be.
Baltasar Gracián El Político Garnacha 2013 (Calatayud). One of Grenache’s great virtues is how delicious it can be as a young red wine, with practically nothing else than fully ripe grapes. The climate of Aragon’s most mountainous appellation, where vineyards grow at high altitude, have turned this fresh vintage into a light and aromatic red with evocative floral and herbaceous aromas. It is produced by Bodegas San Alejandro, a leading winery in the area that produces wine for Gallo (Las Rocas de San Alejandro) and for American importer Eric Solomon (Evodia).
Treinta Mil Maravedíes 2012 (Vinos de Madrid). Bodega Marañones in San Martín de Valdeiglesias has removed Syrah from this blend, which is now 85% Grenache and 15% Morenillo. A delicate heritage variety, Morenillo is usually found in Terra Alta (Tarragona) and very scarcely in Gredos. The jammy character provided by Syrah is gone now; the wine is lighter but more aromatic (pommegranate, spicy and floral notes) and offers a distinctive salinity in the finish.
Coto de Hayas Garnacha Centenaria 2012 (Campo de Borja). This is a well-structured Grenache with a rather short aging time in wood (4 months). A pioneer brand in high-quality Grenache-based reds from Aragón, it comes from old non-irrigated bush vines grown on schist and reddish soils on the hillsides of Moncayo. It follows the trend of deep-coloured fleshy reds typical of the area and displays large amounts of black fruits.
Barón de Ley Varietales Garnacha 2011 (Rioja). Important investments in vineyards have allowed Barón de Ley to launch a new range of varietal wines. This Grenache comes from Los Almendros, a plot located in Ausejo (Rioja Baja). The style is fresh and markedly balsamic (rosemary, pharmacy). As winemaker Gonzalo Rodríguez explains, the Grenache vines were planted between 2004 and 2005 and come from French low-yield clones.
€10.60 on Vinissimus.
La Montesa Crianza 2011 (Rioja). This wine is extremely easy to drink and reflects the way Álvaro Palacios is evolving towards a new direction since he took over the family winery in Alfaro (Rioja Baja). Although it includes a small percentage of Tempranillo and Mazuelo (Carignan), Grenache coming from the hillsides of mount Yerga is undoubtedly prevalent here. This light, friendly and balsamic red not only is a good introduction to Grenache, but to wine in general.
Altaroses 2012 (Montsant). Since brothers Joan and Josep (seventh generation) took over Joan d’Anguera, the family winery, their efforts have been focused on growing local grapes and producing wines such as Altaroses, which comes from white clay soils. A switch to biodynamic vineyards and minimum use of sulphur are also in place. Over the coming vintages fermentation with stems will be introduced in order to obtain more aerial wines. For the time being, the wine offers nice juicy red fruit and a chalky character on the finish that adds extra character.
Navaherreros 2011 (Vinos de Madrid). This is the entry-level red from Bernabeleva in San Martín de Valdeiglesias. This winery, a pioneer in the resurgence of Gredos, leads new winemaking trends in the area such as fermentation with stems and aging in demi-muides or foudres in order to preserve Grenache’s expression. Light to medium bodied with intense flavours. Bright red fruits and earthy, salty notes prove that terroir-driven wines can be purchased at an affordable price.
El Molar 2012 (Jumilla). A couple of years ago Casa Castillo managed to draw critics' attention when they launched what was believed to be the first Grenache varietal from Jumilla. It was quite logical to assume that a long-cycle grape that successfully endures heat could thrive in Monastrell’s land. El Molar ferments with stems and it is aged in foudres. It manages to offer a glimpse of freshness (raspberries’ acidity) on the palate despite the very hot 2012 vintage, marked by syrup and stone fruit. This is a nice rarity indeed.