Foco Garnacha Carinena 2017


Tasted at the A3 Quebec ( Wine, beer and spirits agencies from Quebec)

A great example of vertical integration in wine 

Foco is the wine project of the founders of Importations BMT, an important wine importer in Quebec, Canada. In a business trip to Spain, Laura and Manfred felt hopelessly in love with the hills of Carinena and the sexy allure of a parcel of Garnacha. Quickly they contracted the parcel from the Esteban Martin family and embarked on the adventure of wine making.

Vineyard work was subcontracted to a local winemaker that shares the vision of Laura and Manfred: to make a wine that is the voice of the land and respect nature.  I find Foco to be quite representative of the terroir of Carinena and highly recommend it to Spanish wine amateurs.

Foco Garnacha Carinena 2017. SAQ # 13803005, $13.95

Enticing and alluring nose of raspberry with cardammon and roasted black sesame tones. On the palate round with ripe tannins and good equilibrium. Medium aromatically with notes of confit violet and seasoned black fruit. An excellent value for money and widely available in SAQ outlets

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


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

How I learnt to love Atlantic Garnacha


In my formative years of learning about Spanish wines, I had a passion for the wines of the Mediterranean coast and northeast of Spain. Dont get me wrong, I still love them but there are other wines that enchant me as well.

Garnachas and Monastrell..with their heady aromas of deep black fruit, lead pencil and balsamic spice ( more like a fairy spice for me). Day and night, I will sip these wines from my apartment in Madrid and through the window and i would watch the time pass by listening kind of blue by Miles Davis.


Back in those days I had a mentor that i was an adolescent with my wine drinking habits. He always used to tell me that my passage to adulthood wine drinking would occur when i started drinking wines with atlantic influence. Those were the wines of Rioja, Navarra and Bierzo. As we head north, the acidities get more pronounced and the fruit gives less gratification. The Garnachas of the north bring to mind red fruit such as raspberries and strawberries. On the mouth, there are fresh and juicy bringing to mind herbal flavors such as diverse teas. They are wonderful but require a bit more attention because these are more introverted wines.

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Famously known for its annual bull-running festival in Pamplona and its endless fields of white asparagus, red peppers and succulent artichokes, Navarra is also the birthplace to some of the world’s oldest Garnacha vines – offering drinkers some of Spain’s best value reds.

In Navarra, the Garnacha style is quite peppery with fine tannins and sour cherry acidity like. The acidity is the product of the terroir of Navarra: Atlantic climate with a combination of poor mountain soil In Navarra Garnacha has traditionally been used to produce pale wines labelled either rosado or clarete.  But more and more, producers are keeping the Garnachas to make singular reds.

One of this producers is Bodegas Artazuri. Part of the group Artadi in Rioja, Artazuri makes a joven entry level Garnacha. It has a very simple elaboration process in which the grapes are destemmed and cold macerated before fermentation occurs at a controlled temperature.

Some of the best wines I have tasted in Navarra are made by Bodegas Artazuri. Juan Carlos Lopez de Lacalle made his name with his Bodegas Artadi in neighbouring Rioja, then moved across the border to neighbouring Navarra to run Bodegas Artazuri in the village of Santa Cruz focusing on just 100% Garnacha wines.


Garnacha Artazuri. SAQ # 10902841. $15.20

This is a very easy to drink and elegant wine. Lovely nose of coffee, cherry in dark chocolate with  lead pencil shavings. In addition,  crushed peppercorns. On the palate, earthy with a medium to high acidity. It may not be hedonistic like the Garnachas further south but provides a fine intelligent drinking. Also it comes with a very friendly price.  You can pair it with a dish of baked dry cod with tomatoes or a seafood stew. Or if you feel like an Italian mood, fettuccine with shrimps alla diavola. 


I cant tell you which wine drinker you should be, but it should be a mix of a connoisseur and expert. For a fun text regarding different wine drinkers, please consult the text of my colleague Yves Mailloux, what kind of wine drinker are you? ( in french).

Hasta luego!!!


Wine Trade Monitor 2016: Good news for Spain but a few words of caution


I recently came across the latest findings of the Wine Trade Monitor prepared by Sopexa. In the study, 1100 operators in the international wine industry were interviewed about the worldwide trend of still wines. There are some interesting and reassuring wine observations that I would like to share with you.


According to most captains of industry, France is the country that embodies more the image of  wine. However, if you take a look at the above graphic, Spain is rising fast in the ranks. Customers associate French wine for special occasions and Spanish wine for everyday consumption due to their excellent quality-price ratio. At this point Spains still needs to focus on developing a fine wine market image. In a recent article by Spanish magazine Sobremesa, one of the weak points of the Spanish wine industry is still the image that they have as a bulk producer. After reading the article, I was very surprised to find out that Spain is the largest exporter of wine in the world but the price of their wines have risen slightly in the past 15 years.


Canada will be a key market for Spanish wine from here to 2018. This is the perception of 40% of the industry operators interviewed for this study. In an article by the newspaper, La Vanguardia, the growth of Spanish wine imports have been steady since 2010 ( a good 44%). However, much has to be done in the area of promotion of wine regions. Spain should follow the example of Italy in how they market the wines. Like the trade Italian tasting, Wines from Spain should organize trade cities across Canadian cities such as Montreal, Toronto and Calgary. It was very encouraging to see that the theme of La Grande Degustation 2015 was Spain but what I would like to see is a yearly Spanish wine show.


Spain will continue to improve their whites specially in areas such as Andalucia and Asturias. See the article on Verema for more information about it. However, the biggest asset on Spain in the next few years will be about the Garnacha grape. According to wine trade monitor, the grape has entered the top 5 in the minds of North American wine professionals.

Spanish Garnacha produces red wine that doesn’t get a lot of attention. At my  budget price point, instead of cheap versions of Spain’s great wines, I’ll often simply reach for Garnacha. These wines remain largely under the radar, with plenty of delicious and inexpensive options.

Garnacha originated in the region of what is now eastern Spain. Garnacha proved to be succefull in the hot, dry Mediterranean climate, and soon propagated  to the south and east, first to Catalonia and then to other places where the kingdom of Aragón expanded throughout the 12th-17th centuries. The grape has become popular not only for its gutsy and deep flavors but also for its versability, resistance to disease and low impact on the environment.

With the occasion of Garnacha day worldwide on Sept 16th, I had a chance to taste  a small selection of Garnachas available in the Canadian market. The event was organized by wines of Garnacha. Some of my favorites wines were included on my previous post  celebrating Garnacha day. This wine was a favorite of both my wife and me. I wanted to include it since it does not happen often that we share a favorite wine.   Prados Coleccion Garnacha 2015 comes from the Campo de Borja appellation where Garnacha is king. The wine was amazing with the Paella made in Tapas 24, the place where the event was organized.

 On the eye, the wine has a deep and attractive red colour. The bouquet is quite heady with complex notes of ripe fruits,coffee beans and vanilla undertones tones as a result of oak aging. On the mouth, it is full body with an amazing elegance and soft tannins.

Prados Garnacha is the realization of acclaimed producer Pagos del Moncayo. It is the intimate realization of this bodega along close friends. The wines have gathered numerous awards including Parker and Jose Penin.


Celebrating Garnacha Day


On September the 15th, it was the international day of Garnacha!, so it was the perfect excuse to retaste some of my all time favorites Spanish wines tasted from this variety. I was invited by the Sopexa group and wines of Garnacha in Montreal to taste a selection of Iberian wines availabe at the SAQ. The wines were tasted with a Tapas selection from the trendy Tapas24 in Montreal.  Here are my recommendations below. These wines are available at the SAQ ( Quebec) and LCBO ( Ontario).

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

Bodegas Aragonesas. Coto de Hayas Garnacha Centenaria 2014. SAQ: 12374587. $19.95

Red cherry colour. On the nose, the wine had  intense fruit aromas with a clear with nuances of toasty oak and spice. On the mouth, it was soft and well structured with ripe tannins. 89\100.

Anayón Garnacha 2012

Anayón Garnacha 2012. VINTAGES#: 424424. $21.75

On the nose, black pepper and cherry. Full body and robust wine. On the mouth, silky with sweet and noble tannins. Flavors bring to mind cocoa powder with a hint of vanilla and blueberry on the finish. 87\100.

Menguante Selección Garnacha 2012

Menguante Seleccion Garnacha 2012. VINTAGES#: 313833. $16.95

On the nose notes of black fruit compote with vanilla cream and seasoned oak. On the mouth, generous with ripe fruit and sweet and supple tannins. Good balance between concentration and acidity. 90/100

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

Beso de Vino Old Vine Garnacha 2014. SAQ: 12799649 . $14.75. LCBO: 253591. $9.95

On the nose, jammy black cherry with stewed prunes and notes of oak. On the mouth, generous and rich with notes of cinnamon, leather and pencil shavings.  Very rich with a warmth feeling at the palate finale and generous tannins. 92/100.







Wine of the month: Garnacha Sotillo 2014

This week,  I had the chance to discover a magnificent producer. Vinos Ambiz is the proyect of Fabio Bartolomei in the Gredos region near Madrid. This region is on the way to way to becoming the next Priorato of Spain. Gredos not only have schist soils but they have also old vines. In Quebec, they are represented by the good people of Glou. This is a very special wine. At the same time, it is a wine of pleasure but also of Intellectual reflection.

Fabio makes a wide range of wines: young and aged such as white, red and orange. He ages in amphora, steel, and wood. The wines are made in the natural style with no chemical additions or foreign agents. The plots are vinified separately, and coupage is done on a occasional basis. He either grown his own grapes (3 ha) or buy in from local growers. Indigenous local varieties are grown such as: Airén, Doré, Albillo, Chelva, Malvar, Sauvignon Blanc, Garnacha, Tempranillo.


Very fresh nose. On the natural style. Lots of Raspberries with fresh cherries. Lots of floral nuances as well. On the mouth, fresh. A tad frizzante in the palate. Fruity and earthy with a point of sweetness too. Smooth on the palate with raspy tannins. Various complex nuances that bring to mind green olives, leather, sweet and sour plum sauce with mineral tones as well. Great wine to have with an omelette with spicy chorizo. 95/100

Enjoy this video with Fabio that talks about some of its wines.