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

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.

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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.

Is Sierra the Gredos, the new eldorado of Spain?

Every once in a while, I come across undiscovered gems when I buy wine in the private importation network of Quebec. This ocurred to me a while ago. I was browsing through the list of current release of one my favorite agencies, Vini-Vins, when the name of Comando G stroke my eye.  Since, I never heard them, i started doing a bit of research.

Comando G

Daniel G. Jiménez to the left and Fernando García. Photo: blogs.20minutos.es

Comando G is a joint venture between two young and upcoming spanish winemakers, Fernando García (Bodegas Marañones) and Daniel Gómez Jiménez Landi. The pair discovered a very singular vineyard which was the highest in the D.O Vinos de Madrid. It has an altitude between 900 and 1,100 meters in the Sierra de Gredos mountain range. This tiny vineyard consist only of 3 ha of very old vineyards in poor granite soils. From there, they started scouting other vineyards in the Gredos mountain range and they now they have close to 10 ha of very old garnacha between the ages of 50 and 80 years old. They farm biodinamically and this energetic duo have a passion to rescue abandoned vineyards and restore the agriculture tradition of the area. I can draw the comparison with the work that Alvaro Palacios in the Priorat was doing in the beginning of the 90’s.

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Garnacha vines in the Sierra de Gredos Photo: blogs.20minutos.es

In the US, the proyect has already been discovered by prestigious wine importer Eric Solomon. In a recent article ( In Search of a wine with a star quality) by Lettie Teague of the Wall Street Journal, Solomon praises Comando G as being one of ” the most exciting new projects in Spain today.”. Miss teague also comments by saying that the wines of Comando G are like a meeting Burgundy and Rhone Valley in high altitude Spain.I can relate with Miss teague wine description, as i found in their entry level wine, Las Brujas Averias many elements that were present in a southern Rhone wine. But i was, the purity of the red fruit that strikes the most. I can see why Miss teague is reminded by Burgundy. Las brujas, makes me already think of a entry level Volnay. But anyways, I can getting ahead of myself.

The label design of Las Bruja Averia, a witch in different poses and different background colours-each bottle is different draws its inspiration from Japanese and Spanish animation cartoons. The idea of this two young winemaekrs is to take out some of the snootiness in the world of wine. La bruja see 7 months in barrel aging. Their entry level wine is easy to drink but quite complex too.  They also make different single vineyards bottling such as  Rozas and  Umbrías). They also make two special bottlings called  Rumbo al Norte and  El Tamboril 2012.Vini-Vins, their representant in Quebec carry all of the cuvees except for las Rozas.

La Bruja Averia 2013. D.O Vinos de Madrid.

Crazy nose bringing to mind a nirvana of red fruits, touches of cream with lots of floral components such as roses, lilacs and wild thym. In addition, intriguing nuances of dry spices. Moreover, with some time in the bottle, notes of wild oregano and pencil shavings develop. On the mouth, round with lots of substance and texture. Very fresh in the palate with lots of earthy character. Wonderful dusty and sandy tannins with a streamlined mineral finale. 93\100