This week I selected Garnacha (known as Grenache everywhere else) from Spain! It is commonly blended with another grape, Tempranillo, in the Rioja and Ribera del Duero regions of Spain (we will visit the Rioja region just in time for BBQing on Memorial Day weekend!). In the Priorat region, Garnacha has risen to excellence as a single varietal, where it makes a full bodied wine high in tannin, acidity, and minerality. While most wine in Spain is very affordable, some of the wines of Priorat command fairly hefty prices (I picked my bottle up from Costco). The region is situated just south of the French border and west of the Mediterranean, near Barcelona. The terrain is this area is quite rugged, with many vineyards on slopes of 15% but the slopes can get up to 60%. Slopes this steep (similar to those in the Douro region of Portugal where Port originates) mean the vineyards must be worked by hand because machinery is unable to navigate the land. The vines tend to be older in this region, which decreases the yield. All of this can raise the price significantly. Keep in mind, this area has a very warm climate. This leads to high alcohol content in this style of wine, usually around 15%.
The bottle I picked up, which I subsequently found at my local wine shop also, was a 2019 Alvaro Palacios Camins del Priorat. Alvaro Palacios is one of nine children from a prominent wine family in the Rioja region. Rather than grow into his family’s business, he chose to venture out on his own after learning in the Bordeaux region of France. When he returned to Spain, he decided to purchase a vineyard in the Priorat in 1989. At this time, the region was still trying to recover from hardships since phylloxera in the late 1800s. Which was followed by years of drought, then labor decreases from the war as workers were pulled into textile manufacturing. Alvaro had a vision of making wines that were on the same level as some of the most legendary wines in the world, a brazen goal for a region struggling so greatly for such an extended period of time. Since his first purchase, he has gone on to procure other parcels, including L’Ermita, the source of his masterpiece wines. As time has passed, Alvaro Palacios has become known as one of the preeminent winemakers in all of Spain for the wines he has produced in Priorat.
Lately, I have been reading up on another Spanish wine family that is the only foreign owner of a winery in Washington state (more about that in a couple weeks!) and looking forward to enjoying tapas on their patio. So this week, I decided to get in the spirit and pair my wine with some tapas! First, open your wine and pour a glass…then let it sit! This wine is best if it gets some air (30-60 minutes should suffice). One of my favorite things to do is to pour a glass one night, then pour another the next to see how the wine evolves. (This assumes you don’t drink the entire bottle the first night!). For this wine, once I did pour it and sat to taste it, it was nearly opaque deep ruby with some sediment and noticeable legs. When I went to smell it, if I put my nose into the tapered opening, the evaporating alcohol overwhelmed the delicate aromas of the wine so I had to keep my nose on the very edge of the glass without sticking my nose directly into it or even being above it. Once I did this, I got notes of blackberry, plums, dried tobacco leaves, vanilla, and black currant. On the palate, it is noticeable this wine is a blend of many grape varieties as the typical character of a predominantly garnacha wine is lacking. With that being said, this dry wine is fairly tannic, with significant acid, full bodied, and high in alcohol (the bottle lists the alcohol between 14.1-16%). All of these elements are well balanced into a smooth, easy to drink wine. It has flavors of blackberry, dark chocolate, dried tobacco leaves, wild strawberries and minerals. The dark chocolate and dried tobacco notes linger and slowly fade with the finish. This wine is great with high fat game meat. For my tapas, I paired it with Chorizo a la Sidra (chorizo cooked in hard cider) and roasted red peppers with manchego. Be careful when pairing this to ensure the food isn’t too spicy, or the spice will increase the burning sensation of the alcohol in the wine.