Garnacha, I love you the way you are

be yourself

It has been a while since my last post on these pages. I have been finally adapting now a new work schedule. Before I was in baking school. Now that school is over, I got myself a gig in an artisanal bakery in Joliette, Quebec. The name of the place is Boulangerie St-Viateur. Between baking bread and making it, I get to compose in my mind so here is my latest post. I will promise that I will keep posting in a more regular basis, now that I am more adapted to this life of baker and wine blogger.

As a boy growing up in Venezuela, I had a hard time “fitting in”. When I was a child, my grandfather criticized me on a regular basis. Sometimes, it was because of my lack of social skills as a youngster. In other occasions, it was because of my weight or my taste of music and clothes. Yes, there were some positive comments but as far I remember, the negative outnumbered the good ones.

As a teenager, the situation did not change at all and actually became worse. Not only I had my family nagging me but I became ostracized in high school. My peers made fun of my death metal look and my keen interest for surreal literature.

I felt very much rejected and for a good while I changed to please the ones that excluded me. For instance. In my late teens, I keep changing my fashion tastes according to the flavor of the moment. Hell, I even went to business school to please my family.

The rest is history. I went to work in a bank for 10 years because I was convinced that continue to move up in society was the right thing to do. At the same time, I had developed a wine and food passion which kept my sanity. Eventually, it was not enough and i ended up having a breakdown. You cant live two realities and at the end you have to assume your real self.

How does this relate to wine?. I think is much the same with our wine drinking habits. We want to fit in with our peers and the styles we choose will highly reflect the the group as a whole. It is obvious that our tastes and preferences are highly noticed by winemakers and vinegrowers. I realized this fact the most when I started writing about wine. In our small wine community in Quebec, we all tend to write about the same wines. The weight of the current pulls you right in!!

I still remember with nostalgia my early days of Spanish wine education. Back in my mid 20’s, I was chasing the wines of Priorat such as L’Ermita, Clos Mogador and Clos Martinet. These were highly extracted and beefed up wines with french oak. They were perfectly made to satisfy the international wine press such as Parker, etc. If you were drinking Priorat on those days, you had cachet and belonged with the elite cool wine drinkers.

What I came to understand about Priorat is that a lot of the wines had a high proportion of old ancient vines Garnacha . The pioneers of modern Priorat ( Barbier and company) brought modern vinification techniques and small french oak barrels, and the rest was a success history!!

Would Priorat have ascended to fame without the help of french oak and international grape varities?. This is the question that I ask myself everyday to the present day. Maybe the wine world was not ready for a pure old vine pure Spanish Garnacha in those days and they need it up to beef up with oak and other international grape varieties

In my humble opinions, all those modern vinifications techniques blurred the real character of old age Garnacha. Also, in the past, its personality has not been able to express itself because it has been blended with the more popular or jock Tempranillo grape.

What is the taste of a pure old vine Spanish Garnacha?. A pure old vine red Garnacha would have a special bright fruit character coated with a layer of pencil lead shavings and wonderful spice character that brings to mind paprika and black cumin. This is what i found when I first tasted my first Garnachas from Campo de Borja in Aragon. I would never forget that taste in my life.

Daniel Landi

daniellandi

Real Spanish wine cognoscenti will argue that the next frontier of old vine Garnacha would be found in the Sierra de Gredos in Spain. For over a decade, the Spanish winemakers over there have been making things right. They are crafting transparent and terroir driven Garnachas.  Minerality is always present in the wines from this area making them totally unique and different to Garnacha wines from other regions in Spain. It is all about getting back to the basics and assuming who you are. At the Sierra de Gredos you can find pretty unprententious wine made with old Garnacha that is proud of its pueblo roots. That’s what Spanish Garnacha is for me: A campesino wearing designer clothes, just rustic elegance.

I went to get myself a bottle of Las Uvas de la Ira by Daniel Landi.Landi grew up in a family of viticulturists in Méntrida, a region not too far from Madrid. He decided early on he wanted to craft his own wine, and after making his fame with Bodegas Jimenez-Landi— a joint project with his cousin—in 2012 he decided set out on his own, taking with him a couple of the very best old-vine Garnacha plots in Spain

This very old Garnacha hails from the town of El Real de San Vicente. The grapes from this wine could be as old your grandmother ( average of 60+ years more) at 750 meters of altitude from granitic soils deep and sand on the surface. Landi is a winemaker that is looking for purity with minimal intervention. He only does soft macerations and does not destem the grapes and of course only employs indigenous yeasts. Finally, he ages the wine in french oak foudres.

How is it?. Here is my formal tasting note:

Extasis!!. Leafy red fruit, lead pencil shavings, rock dust, burning dry leaves with wild garrique notes. Intense, yet fluid in the mouth, gripping every inch of your mouth. Juicy yet highly mineral. Cool shades of mountain fruit. A lot of personality. A very spicy finale bringing to mind dry coriander, mustard. Aftertaste-floral and balsamic

Here is a wine that is not afraid to show its true colours. There is still a tiny bit left on the SAQ shelves (  13302219 , $31.25). Get the last bottles while you can!!

Hasta luego and keep tuned for more wine adventures

Riojas, Toros and what to drink with strawberries in season.

At a glance, the title of my blog post, may not make sense to you. However, you may be having these items in no particular order. Let me put it in plain words: BBQ meats with Riojas and Toros and desserts based with strawberries.

If you are in Ontario, the latest vintage LCBO Catalog ( available from July 8th), offers some interesting Spanish Goodies. Interesting wines to try include the Rioja Bordon from Bodegas Franco Espanolas and Pruno Finca Villacreces.

Bodegas Franco Espanolas

This bodega goes  back to the immigration to Rioja by a group of French wine producers  looking for new sources for grapes to meet France’s demands. This was the end of the XIX century, after phylloxera devastated the French vineyards.

The result of the quest for sourcing new grapes ended in 1890 when Frederick Anglade Saurat, a Bordeaux negociant, formed a joint venture with winegrowers and investors from Spain to create Bodegas Franco Espanolas. The partnership ended in 1922 when the Spanish owners bought out their French partners.

Today, the bodega is owned by the Eguizabal. They have turned this company into a well-respected winery that caters to all price ranges.

Voir la photo agrandie du produit. Cette photo s'ouvre dans une visionneuse et peut comporter des obstacles à l'accessibilité.

During la Grande Degustation of Montreal, I had the chance to taste their 2008 Reserva. By law, a reserva must be aged in barrel for two full years and held in bottle for another two before release . This is a blend of 80% Tempranillo, 15% Garnacha, and 5% Mazuelo. It spends that two years in medium-toast American white oak, with racking from barrel to barrel every six months. It is quite elegant with brooding black and  light-cured tobacco leaf undertones. On the mouth, is quite round and harmonious with flavors bringing to mind  toffee, marzipan, sage, and anise. Their 2011 is retailing for $19.95. LCBO #194753.

Globetrotter Francois Lurton.

20170607_140639

Francois Lurton was in Montreal, in early June to present his wines.

Working with Michel and Dany Rolland, Lurton founded the original Campo Eliseo estate in Toro 16 years ago.  This was his introduction into the Spanish wine industry.

After mastering the reds, now Lurton wants to make one of the best whites of Spain. It is an ambitious project but Francois is well aligned to make this happen.

Francois commented to me that Rueda has become a big business focusing on volume and bland wines. His vision for Rueda is to create a super growth that will  pull up the appellation all together. Although his production of his verdejo is an eye raising 250,000 bottles, he is able to combine the best of both worlds: quantity and quality.

His Rueda is impressive ( for my tasting note, see my previous post on Vinos and Paella). Lurton picks ripe the Verdejo  and ages in less to give its creamy texture.  The Verdejo ferments at low temperatures and in a mix of vessels such as barriques, stainless steel and concrete egg fermentation tasks.  This system allows the wine to gain an increased depth in complexity in the aromas and texture in the palate.

Tasting the wines of Lurton from Spain

Voir la photo agrandie du produit. Cette photo s'ouvre dans une visionneuse et peut comporter des obstacles à l'accessibilité.

El Albar Barricas Tierra de Leon 2012. SAQ # 10358006. $22.05

Predominant nose of toasty aromas. Cacao,  Ethiopian coffee dark beans with strawberry, raspberry jam and balsamic condiment. Structured and  tannic but overall with a sense of balance and harmony.

Image result for campo eliseo 2009

Campo Eliseo 2009 ( Presented at La Grande Dégustation de Montréal 2015). ( Private Import QC, Vins Fins)

Modern nose. Lots of new wood with wild blackberries. On the mouth, fleshy with lots of tannins and concentration. Seems unbalanced at the moment but will need a few years in the cellar to come all together.

Image result for campo alegre toro 2012

Campo Alegre Toro 2012 ( Presented at La Grande Dégustation de Montreal 2015). ( Private Import QC, Vins Fins)

On an international style, yet very appealing. Very dark ripe blue fruits with an incredible depth of spice. Full body, dense with lots of chocolate and coffee nuances. Long finale.

Sweet accords: Strawberries and wine?

strawberry

A perfect pairing of strawberries with the appropiate wine can be so amazing that it’s worth putting the effort to get it just right. Stay away from rosados (still or sparkling), as any wine without a decent dollop of residual sugar will taste  sour and horrible next to the sweet fruit. But if you overdoit with very rich dessert wines, and you threaten to overwhelm the relative delicacy of this sublime berry fruit.

I definitely would go with a sweet muscat. Muscat produces good versatile dessert wines. They are juicy and fresh-tasting, even when they come from a warmer region and are bold tasting  and weighty in texture. Think apricots, oranges, a drop of caramel. And think affordable. Moscatels from Valencia in Spain are extraordinarily well priced and fit the bill to go with strawberries.

I recently tasted  the Dona Dolça Moscatel Valençia ( SAQ # 11096618, $14.55) with a strawberries and zabaglione cream and it was a hit!!!. A Moscatel de Alejandría, it display notes of honey, nougat with peach and citric undertones. On the mouth, it was well-balanced. Not too sweet with a refreshing acidity complementing well the nature of the dessert.