14th June 2024
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Special Wine Club Offer: Grab yourself a Garnacha

Red Garnacha, or Garnacha Tinta as it’s known in Spanish, is one of the most widely grown red grapes in the world and hugely popular in Spain. At just under 60,000 hectares, it ranks third behind Tempranillo and Bobal.

One of the reasons for its popularity is its hardiness. Garnacha is a late ripening grape – ie, it needs a lot of sun to reach full phenolic ripeness – and is drought resistant, with robust roots that can dig down and find water even in quite dry, stony ground. All of which makes it a robust choice for winemakers working in the kind of hot, dry conditions we’re used to in large parts of Spain.

But it’s not all plain-sailing. In fact, Garnacha’s very robustness means it’s difficult to harvest mechanically and you’ll normally find it growing in the traditional goblet or bush vine style (ie, not on a trellis) and, come harvest time, pickers will be out harvesting the berries by hand.

Vineyard workers harvesting Garnacha grapes by hand.

Once back in the bodega, winemakers have to treat Garnacha carefully as it can have a tendency to oxidise, and lose some of its primary fruit aromas if it comes into contact with too much oxygen. Historically, Garnacha has often been used in blends with other grape varieties. So in Rioja, for example, it was often added to the dominant Tempranillo grape to add a little more body and fruit to the wine. And in Priorat in southern Catalonia, which is one of the world’s most famous Garnacha-producing regions, winemakers traditionally blend it with Carignan, Merlot, or Cabernet Sauvignon to produce slightly fuller, more rounded red wines.

So this month, to celebrate all things Garnacha we’ve put together a mixed case of red wines that really showcases the different styles and profiles that this famous red grape is capable of.

We’re kicking off in the north-east with the wonderful El Camí, a Garnacha/Carignan blend from the Bell Cros winery. Packed with bags of fresh dark fruit like prunes and blueberries, a lingering note of violets and a touch of Mediterranean scrub, it’s the perfect introduction to Montsant, the DO next to famous big brother Priorat that makes some brilliant – and far better value! – red wines.

Inland Catalonia is our next destination, specifically the lesser-known DO of Costers del Segre and Ónra Negre from the brilliant biodynamic winery, Lagravera. A Garnacha, Cabernet Sauvignon blend with a light lick of 500-litre French oak before bottling, the wine is laced through with aromas of ripe plums and blood oranges, with tobacco, menthol and spicy pepper and hints of lavender, thyme and brush. Sumptuous!

Aerial view of the Serra Llarga in DO Costers del Segre.

A little further up the road in a north-westerly direction and we’re into DO Somantano, HQ to Luis Oliván, one of Spain’s premium ‘terroir hunters’. Luis seeks out old vineyard plots with huge potential, and he’s hit the jackpot with his Las Pilas bottling from just outside the village of Bespén in Huesca.

Medium red in colour, Luis makes just 2,000 bottles per vintage of this silky smooth, 100% Garnacha. A good dollop of whole bunch fermentation – stems and all! – helps lock in freshness, and the wine exudes wonderful aromas of red fruit, blueberries, and scrub herbs against a background of subtle toasted notes from the seven months it spends in 600 litre oak barrels.

Next stop Rioja, for a pair of Garnacha-based wines from historic Haro producer Gómez Cruzado and a relative newcomer to the DO, South African Bryan MacRobert. The Gómez Cruzado Crianza is a 75/25 Tempranillo/Garnacha blend, with 12 months ageing in French and American oak and bursting with fresh cherry and fruits of the forest aromas.

MacRobert’s La Nave takes a slightly different approach, with an equal blend of Garnacha, Tempranillo and Mazuelo grapes from three different vineyard plots. This time, the material of choice is concrete rather than wood, which helps all the primary fruit aromas of red cherry, plum and blackcurrant really shine through.

Vineyards at Las Moradas de San martin in the DO Vinos de Madrid.

Finally, we finish off our Garnacha tour with a stop in the centre of the country – the Las Moradas de San Martín winery to be precise, in DO Vinos de Madrid. Carefully made under the watchful eye of head winemaker Isabel Galindo – one of Spain’s Garnacha experts – the Senda red wine is a brilliant – and brilliantly affordable – example of what well-made Garnacha from the Gredos mountains west of the capital is capable of. Made with grapes from vines planted between 40 and 85 years ago, and no fining or filtering, Senda is a fresh, fruit-driven red with enticing notes of wild flowers.

Garnacha may be one of Spain’s most popular grapes, but it’s still one that many people are largely unaware of. If you’re one of them, this is a perfect opportunity to pick up a case and taste this exceptional grape in some of its many guises.

So, take a look at our Latest Special Offer and grab yourself some grand Garnachas, with a special price for Spain in English readers! We also offer free shipping to mainland Spain. Take a look at the latest offer and get your order in now.

Please click here to see all the current Spain in English Wine Club offers.

Matthew Desoutter is a wine writer and owner of Simply Spanish Wine.

ALSO READ: Take the Tempranillo Challenge.

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