Tasting Group: Spanish Garnacha



By Kori ~ May 4th, 2011.

Since we live in Washington State and often drink wines from Washington State, we want to make sure that we continue to hone our knowledge of the entire world of wine and maintain well-rounded palates in order to make us even more objective when we evaluate wines from Washington State. Therefore, we are thoroughly enjoying our Wine Peeps Tasting Group which includes what we think is an excellent peer group of knowledgeable wine lovers to taste, share, and learn more about wine together. Unlike our monthly wine tasting dinners in which the guests rotate, this tasting group includes people who are committed to getting together once a month which we believe benefits all of us. In addition to trying varieties and regions that we do not taste frequently, the other main difference between this group and our wine tasting dinners is that each group member brings a bottle consistent with the month’s theme so no one knows all the wines in the blind tasting.

Recently, our tasting group met and explored Spanish Garnacha. Many believe that Grenache is indigenous to Spain where it is called Garnacha, but some contend that the Spanish took the vine from Sardinia during their occupation of the island. Sardinia claims the grape as its own, where it is called yet another name, Cannonau. Grenache/Garnacha is primarily a blending grape, but in recent years, more and more winemakers are producing it as a single varietal wine. Today, it is the third most widely planted red grape variety in Spain and is used to produce both varietal wines and blends. Grenache/Garnacha wines tend to be relatively high in alcohol and offer strawberry, cherry, and perfumed notes. The variety itself typically produces low tannins, low acid wines with moderate amounts of pigment. But low yields can produce dark, rich, spicy reds. We tasted eight bottles of Spanish Garnacha, and the consensus favorite was the 2009 Bodegas Zabrin Ateca Garnacha de Fuego Old Vines. Retailing for only $7.99, it delivers serious bang for your buck. In fact, you could buy a case of the Garnacha de Fuego (the consensus favorite) for the price of one bottle of the Espectacle del Montsant (which finished last in the tasting and is not recommended). A perfect example that price is not always indicative of quality.

As you’ll notice in the tasting notes below, we had duplicates of two of the wines, the Las Rocas and the Tres Picos. While the rankings were close on the Tres Picos and we found them to be very similar, the Las Rocas, while also noticeably similar, varied a bit more. Once again, just one of the many things that keeps the world of wine interesting.

From 1st to last in the group consensus rankings:

2009 Bodegas Zabrin Ateca Garnacha de Fuego Old Vines (Calatayud, Spain): Medium-deep ruby red. Aromatic with sour cherry and strawberry on the nose. More cherry and a hint of spice come through on the palate. Medium-bodied and smooth with soft tannins. Well-balanced with a long finish.
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Fred Meyer (Seattle, Washington), $7.99; Available elsewhere, $6 to $13

2008 Las Rocas de San Alejandro Garnacha (Calatayud, Spain): Deep ruby red. Gorgeous nose with strawberry, cherry, and dusty notes. Loads of red cherry, dust, spice, and a hint of earth on the palate. Medium to full-bodied with lively acidity and medium tannins. Well-balanced and smooth with good complexity and a long, lingering finish.
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Wine World Warehouse (Seattle, Washington), $12; Available elsewhere, $9 to $14

2008 Bodegas Alto Moncayo Veraton Garnacha (Campo de Borja, Spain): Deep red in color. Aromatic with dark red fruits, earth, and a bit of funk on the nose. More red fruits as well as spice and black pepper come through on the palate. Medium to full-bodied and lively with medium to high, drying tannins. Well-balanced with a long finish.
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Esquin Wine Merchants (Seattle, Washington), $28.99; Available elsewhere, $22 to $42

2008 Las Rocas de San Alejandro Garnacha (Calatayud, Spain): Deep ruby red. Nice nose with red fruits, earth, and floral notes. Red fruits, earth, dust, and floral notes on the palate. Medium to full-bodied with lively acidity and medium to high tannins and a long finish.
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Fred Meyer (Seattle, Washington), $11.79; Available elsewhere, $9 to $14

2006 Clos Figueras Priorat (Priorat, Spain): Deep purplish ruby red. Aromatic with Red Vines and prunes on the nose; more prunes and stewed plums on the palate. Medium-bodied and smooth with medium tannins. Very ripe and a bit hot with a medium to long finish.
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 1 bang for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Full Pull Wines (Seattle, Washington), $50; Available elsewhere, $68 to $83

2009 Borsao Tres Picos Garnacha (Campo de Borja, Spain): Medium-deep ruby red in color. Aromatic with perfume, dust, and rubber on the nose that lead to flavors of dust, earth, and sour cherry. Medium to full-bodied and lively with medium to high tannins and a long finish.
Quality: 3 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 1 bang for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Whole Foods (Seattle, Washington), $16; Available elsewhere, $7 to $17

2009 Borsao Tres Picos Garnacha (Campo de Borja, Spain): Medium-deep ruby red in color. Aromatic with red berries and floral notes on the nose that lead to more red berries, earth, and oak on the palate. Medium to full-bodied and lively with medium to high tannins and a long finish.
Quality: 3 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 2 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Fred Meyer (Seattle, Washington), $13.49; Available elsewhere, $7 to $17

2007 Espectacle del Montsant Garnacha (Montsant, Spain): Medium-deep ruby red. Sour cherry Jolly Rancher, strawberry, and dust on the nose; rough, dry, and dusty on the palate. Medium-bodied with lively acidity, hard tannins, and a very bitter, unpleasant finish.
Quality: 2.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: NR (not recommended)
Where to buy: J.J. Buckley (California), $108.99; Available elsewhere, $100 to $125


Filed under: Five-Bangs For Your Buck Wines, Grenache, Red Wine, Spanish Wine, Tasting Group, Wines NOT To Buy (1 & 2 Star), Wines Over $25, Wines Under $10, Wines Under $15, Wines Under $20, Wines Under $25

Reader's Comments

  1. itsoffal | May 11th, 2011 at 1:08 am

    NO comments?
    I love spanish wines so much, I have to say something, here goes, I love spanish wines.
    I am sure Sardinia would love to claim Grenache as their own, but Spain did take residence there for a while, ( I thought they brought some of their grapes with them, Heck I don’t know )including Napoli too, where a fairly descent number of spanish descendents live today. Well , we all know about the Romans cultivating the vineyards of their empire, but they were tending the local vines ( I am sure they brought some of their own grape varieties along for the ride too ).
    enough talking, I’d like a glass of spanish sunshine and a plate of grilled calamari on toasted bread drizzled with spanish olive oil, seating outside at a cafe’.
    anecdote, I remember watching the travel channel and Samantha Brown ( I kinda have a crush on her ) but she was in barcelona walking past a terrasse where people were eating and drinking and then she said, “look at the nice people drinking their Chardonnays” , I just about fell off my chair laughing, but hey she’s too cute for me to say anything bad.

  2. Kori | May 14th, 2011 at 10:22 pm

    itsoffal,
    As always, thanks for sharing your thoughts. “Look at the nice people drinking their Chardonnays” – that’s a good one. I love Spanish wines too but don’t drink them often enough. Cheers!

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