Winemakers from Spain and France, producing wines across three PGIs and 14 PDOs within Roussillon Geographical Indications and five Spanish Protected Designations of Origin (DO Calatayud, DO Campo de Borja, DO Cariñena, DO Somontano and DO Terra Alta), joined forces to promote the character and history of Garnacha/Grenache as the flagship grape of their corner of the world.
Indeed, Garnacha/Grenache has its home and birthplace on these Mediterranean shores, where multiple terroirs and traditions are reflected in a unique diversity of wines.
The selection below highlights both the diversity of the styles that Garnacha/Grenache can produce as well as its capacity to respond to different interpretations and winemaking approaches.
But it also highlights a shared commitment to producing wines expressive of their terroir and that tap into the viticultural history of their respective regions. There is a collective awareness, among these passionate producers, of the unique potential of their repertoire of old vineyards yielding fruit of outstanding quality. It was the effort to highlight this incredible wealth that united these different regions and winemakers in the first place. And it can be best understood by tasting their wines.
Garnacha/Grenache – the wines:
Tasted and scored by the Decanter team.
Bodegas San Alejandro, Clos Baltasar, Catalayud 2019
A quintessential mountain wine hailing from Bodegas San Alejandro’s oldest vineyards, planted to Garnacha with some interspersed plants of Miguel de Arco, Bobal and Moristel. A wine of great elegance, balanced complexity and transparency of flavour.
It’s a beautiful showcase of the fruit that grows on Catalayud’s poor, well-drained soils and of San Alejandro’s effort to revive old plots and support the people that have tended them for centuries. From these they produce small batches that convey incredible terroir specificity and underscore the quality of the grapes from those old vines – in order to do so they follow a light-handed winemaking approach, with early picking to retain acidity, longer gentle macerations, less use of new oak and precise bottling times.
The result is a wine that balances intense fruit with fresh minerality. The aromatic profile is driven by intense black fruit supported by a mineral backbone and firm yet fine-grained tannins. Very long, vibrant finish.
Cellars Unió, Perlat Garnatxa, DO Montsant 2019
Beautiful, refined, yet powerful expression of Garnacha. Amazing balance of fruit and wood-imparted flavours with the 10 months spent in oak barrels really enhancing the expressiveness of the variety and terroir. Aromas of blackberry, black plum, dried Mediterranean herbs, with a balsamic edge. Alcohol is very well integrated (you would struggle to say it is 14.5%) as is the oak. Gravely elegant tannins, supported by racy acidity. The finish is long with lingering spicy notes of black pepper, cloves and liquorice.
A great example of the mountainous terroirs of Montsant, the DO that serves as the perimeter of DOC Priorat but has built a reputation of its own in recent years.
Mas Amiel, Légende AOP Maury Sec 2015
Intense and very complex nose, with aromas of black cherry, plum and black mulberry, topped by dried herbs and a balsamic edge. Robust palate with powerful concentration of fruit and perceptible alcohol, all balanced by refreshing minerality. Tannins are very grippy but quite elegant.
The quality of fruit, hailing from vineyards planted in 1949 to Black Grenache (80%) and Black Carignan (20%) on calcschist soils, promises great things for the future, and suggests that even better balance could be achieved with earlier harvest and gentler extraction.
This is an historic wine – this cuvée was used as a benchmark to create Maury Sec AOP – and deserves to be enjoyed not only for what it is but also for what it will deliver in years to come.
Château de Jau, JauJau 1er, AOP Côtes du Roussillon Villages 2018
A great example of how Syrah and Black Grenache can be such a perfectly balanced act, with the fruitiness of Grenache giving a measured counterpoint to Syrah’s spicy savouriness. Aromas of blackberry, dark cherries, dark plum alongside tapenade and a hint of violets. The wine spends 12 months in barrel which explains why the aromatic profile also has a dimension of forest floor, wet wool, cigar box and, quite prominently, salted liquorice. Grapes from old low-yielding vines deliver this intensity of flavour and firm but mature tannins, underscored by wood tannins as well. Long finish with liquorice lingering on the palate.
Château de Jau, currently owned by the Dauré family, is a 13th Cistercian estate at the heart of which 100 hectares of vineyards are nestled within 500 hectares of wild garrigues.
Grandes Vinos, Anayón, DO Cariñena 2019
A bold expression of single-varietal Garnacha from DO Cariñena, that merges intensity of fruit with strong wood influence. The wine spent 10 months in oak barrels (80% French and 20% American) which added a clear and pleasant layer of smoky toastiness. Underneath there are plenty of red cherry, plum and strawberry jam flavours, lined by violet and liquorice. There is a sweet, coconutty tinge to the palate, which lingers in the long finish. The tannins are young and firm which, alongside the flavour complexity, hints at a great ageing potential. Only 7279 bottles produced of this wine were made, with fruit from selected, low-yielding plots planted to 75-year-old vines, grown by some of the 700 passionate families of winegrowers represented by Grandes Vinos.
Domaine La Tour Vieille, Reserva, AOP Banyuls
A very classical Banyuls made from hand-harvested grapes from old vines Grenache (90%) and Black Carignan (10%). The wine spent four to five years in oak foudres, but part was kept in semi-john – this explains why a classical oxidative Banyuls character is perfectly balanced by alluring fresh fruit. Red cherry, red plum and ripe strawberry dance with aromas of forest floor, dried figs and Christmas cake. There’s also a lovely balsamic edge adding freshness and length. The tannins are very fine and smooth. Alcohol and sweetness mingle, and have a perfect counterpoint in measured, vibrant acidity.
Bodegas Aragonesas, Coto de Hayas Garnacha Centenaria, DO Campo de Borja, Aragón 2020
A single-varietal wine from old Garnacha grown on the slate soils of the Monte Alto and La Sarda vineyards, two high altitude plots close to San Miguel, El Moncayo’s highest peak. Here the bush vines have grown adapted to water scarcity and intense temperature variations, delivering fruit of incredible aromatic intensity. This is precisely the trademark of this Garnacha Centenaria which bursts in the glass with notes of candied cherry, strawberry jam and poached plums. The wine spent only four months in oak in order not to disturb the expressiveness of fruit. The palate is smooth, medium-bodied and with velvety tannins. A very pleasing, approachable wine.
Jonquères d’Oriola Vignobles, Château de Corneilla Pur Sang, AOP Côtes du Roussillon Red 2018
The Jonquères d’Oriola family have been growing vines for 27 generations, a heritage of knowledge and craft that dates back to 1485. This vocation is expressed in the family’s connection to the region where it owns 95 hectares of vines – all HVE certified – across three estates.
At the epicentre of the family’s life and operations is the Château de Corneilla, a 13th century fortress built by the Templars, home to the family’s flagship range, among which is this Pur Sang, a blend of Black Grenache, with a small percentage of Syrah and Black Carignan. The fruit hails from vineyards on quaternary terraces of clay and chalky soils on the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountain, just 5 km from the Mediterranean. The wine has well-defined flavours of blackberries, blackcurrants and plums, with top notes of black olives and thyme; the Syrah and Carignan offer an interesting savoury counterpoint to the fruitiness of Grenache. Smooth tannins and medium length make this an inviting and very approachable pour, with refreshing juiciness.
Maison Cazes, Le Clos de Paulilles, AOP Collioure White 2020
Intriguing nose with citrus notes alongside orchard fruit and a touch of nuts: lemon peel, pear, yellow apple, and fresh almonds, all underscored by a mineral edge. Quite generous on the palate with intense flavours of pear, frangipane, white grapefruit, and yellow apple. There are also hints of wild fennel and wild fowlers adding another layer of complexity.
This is a great example of the aromatic richness that Grenache Blanc and Gris (this wine being a 50/50 blend of each) can deliver, especially when supported by the saline minerality of the schist terraces of the Paulilles cove, facing the sea, between the villages of Port-Vendres and Banyuls / Mer.
Bodega San Valero, Bodega Verde Garnacha-Syrah, DO Cariñena 2019
This cooperative from Cariñena sources fruit from 310 hectares in and around Almonacid de la Sierra, at altitudes between 500 and 700 metres. They put great emphasis in sustainable viticultural practices to promote biodiversity in the vineyards. This explains the choice of the ladybug as symbol of this wine, with its seductive nose of sweet cherry, cherry pie, poached pears and hyacinth. The palate is intense, with very pure flavours and soft tannins. Even though this is a Garnacha-Syrah blend, it is the Garnacha that has full protagonism with all the intense, ripe fruit aromas and the softness of texture. The tannins are round and sweet, with the wine having an almost liqueur-like aftertaste with lingering flavours of cherry jam, cranberry muffin and cherry pannacota.