Almansa, undervalued appellation of Castilla la Mancha

Although the wines of Almansa has been known since the middle ages,  the appellation has been drawing increased attention in the Spanish and International markets in they last few years as they continue to perfect their craft work on the varieties Garnacha Tintorera and Monastrell. Here in Quebec we are lucky to have the wines of the principal founders of the appellation: Bodegas Piqueras and Bodegas Tintoralba. I recently had a chance some of their wines and was very surprised by the high level of quality and above all the price. If you are looking for solid and well made wines for your week nights and even special occasions, Almansa is the place to start looking.

This Spanish appellation  is located in the far southwest of the province of Albacete. It was created in 1966. During that time, Almansa was specialized in the trade of bulk wine. Theirs was a successful operation because of their virtues of their workhorse grape: Garnacha Tintorera. This grape could be described as a winemaker’s dream. It yields dark color, lots of tannins and high acidity.

The most important characteristic of this grape is that its pulp is colored. This explains why, it yields wines of such dark colour. Basically, Garnacha Tintorera is in fact Alicante Bouschet. This grape was created in the XIX by Louis and Henri Buschet. They crossed the varieties Aramon, Teinturier du cher and Garnacha. Garnacha Tintorera is grown in Galicia and in some parts of the Levant and Castilla la Mancha but its true home is Almansa. Characterized by long rolling hills and tempered by a drastic continental climate, the region of Almansa is an excellent environment for producing wines of great extraction

The move from bulk appellation to quality bottling has occurred in Almansa in different phases. Bodegas Piqueras were the pioneers in estate bottling by introducing foreign varieties such as Tempranillo and Cabernet and with a 100% export mentality. However, it was the cooperatives Alpera and Higueruela that eventually became Tintoralba that introduced the first clones of Garnacha Tintorera. In the last few years, the appellation has seen the introduction of the barrique and improvements in vineyard work and management


Tintoralba Vineyards

Tintoralba Higueruela-2012 Coop. Santa Quiteria. Code SAQ: 10758843  Price: $13.90

( 30+ year Garnacha Tintorera vineyards.)

Medium to dark purple colour with crystalline blue nuances. Beautiful tears on the glass. Aromas of ripe concentrated dark fruits (raspberries) with lots of violets and a mild peppery character. Brings to mind the Rhone valley a lot. In the mouth, full body with fleshy primary fruit flavors and a crunchy acidity. In addition, lots of flowery nuances. Medium to long finale. Very well made wine. One of the most exciting Spanish wines that i have tasted in a long time. 93\100


Juan Pablo Bonete, director and winemaker from Bodegas Piqueras

Castillo de Almansa Reserva 2010. Code SAQ: 00270363  $13.65

( Tempranillo, Monastrell and Garnacha Tintorera blend )

Aromas of well seasoned oak with ripe red fruits, leather and vanilla. In the mouth, medium to full body. Kind of rustic but with a good structure. Flavors remind me of cherry bomb chocolate candy, herbs and tiger balms Good acidity and nice finale. A sure quality value. 85/100

Castillo de Almansa Seleccion 2008. Code SAQ: 10856179. $17.15

Best pick of vineyard grapes: Tempranillo, Monastrell, Garnacha Tintorera and Syrah )

Aromas of christmas cake, dry fruits, milk chocolate and ripe black fruits. In the mouth, full body with a good acidity and a rustic profile. Smooth tannins with a flavor profile that remind of old oak, spices and dust minerals. 85/100

Piqueras Black Label 2011. Code SAQ: 12382982 . $12.60

( Tempranillo, Monastrell and Garnacha Tintorera blend )

Dark ruby colour with purple nuances. Brambly nose of black fruits with lots of pepper and cured meat aromas. Also some good old oak spice and floral elements ( rose and violets). In the mouth, full body and rather rustic to a certain extent. Nice acidity with a medium lenght. Long aftertaste. 88/100

The wines of Bodegas Piqueras are represented in Quebec by  Élixirs vins et spiritueux and Tintoralba by Importation Épicurienne.

The wines reviewed were  given from the importers for a press review.