They Say “Garnacha” We say “Grenache.”

Grenache makes compelling drink. The French might think they own it, but they would be sadly mistaken.

Do the French produce admirable efforts at Grenache?  Yes, they do – great plantings dot the entirety of the Rhone River Valley, the southern provinces of Languedoc and Rousillon and are they inky unctuous aromatic efforts? Yes, they are.

But when the discussion turns to Spain, therein are the oldest greatest patches of Grenache in the world and there are many who make a study of such things that would argue that Spain is the region of origin.  Toreador indeed.

Spain is a high desert plateau and many of its prime vineyard areas share similar attributes to our own climate; dry, arid, nasty soil where weeds refuse to grow (organic soil whether they like it or not), tremendous diurnal temperature swing (high daytime temperature /low nighttime temperature) and very old vines with very low yields.

These are catnip words to the serious wine dork and they should be as they invariably point to wines with tremendous richness framed by bright acidity.  For some strange reason, these wines are perversely underpriced.  Considering the production parameters on many of these hidden treasures, should these have California labels they’d be 2 x or 3 x the price.

It’s a sturdy and hearty little bugger capable of surviving in arid windy conditions where lesser vines would suffer and despite its thin skin it produces colorful deep rich red wines with lusty flavors and aromatics, this is tough stuff and it makes a compelling bottle of juice, especially when Spain is the country of choice, and thankfully, like so many other categories, Spain is the king of value for the wine consumer.

Where to start?  It doesn’t take much money to enjoy this stuff. Or even do a regional study of Spanish entries alone!  The best however come from two different regions: Calatayud in the northeast and Navarre in the north.  My choices start cheap and stay cheap.

Vina Borgia Spanish Wine

My picks?  The tremendous bottlings from the ancient Roman town of Borsao’s benchmark producer Bodegas Borsao; beginning with the tremendous value that is the Vina Borgia (UDABC Code 914133/ $14.49  – for a 1.5 L bottle), a tank fermented rendition from 50 year old vines, the Camp de Borja bottling (UDABC  Code 914925 / $8.51) and the utterly ridiculous Tres Picos (UDABC Code 914924/ $17.99) bottling which sources fruit from vines 80 + years old and allows some finishing time in French Oak.  The Tres Picos bottling is named for the peaks of the Alto Moncayo mountains which dot the horizon of Calatayud from all  directions and is one of the most tremendous wine values in the world today.  It fools many Very Serious Palates.

In that same neighborhood are wines from a neighboring bodega, Bodegas Atteca.  Atteca is a newer concern run by the Gil family from Jumilla.  Their two bottlings offer serious gravitas to the field with their value priced Garnacha de Fuego (UDABC Code #915230 / $ 8.49) and their contender the Bodegas Atteca  “Atteca” (UDABC Code #915232 / $16.99).

For the professional wine dork, these two properties offer a study of Garnacha terroir, which is abundantly evident; the Borsao bottlings are grown over red gravel and the Atteca bottlings are grown over slate.  Either way, these two sumptuous properties offer pleasure year round but seem especially suited for a cool fall night’s  table filled with harvest bounty.

They are the Goldilocks wines of choice for me, not too heavy, not too hard, as always, they are just right, floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee (they average 15% after all).

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