Posted by: tomciocco | July 26, 2011

GARNACHA: LIKE A 70s MERCEDES DIESEL, BUT A GRAPE

The vine is a long-lived entity no matter how you prune it. Grape vines have been proven to live to, and even beyond 170 years (though at this stage they are only sporadically productive, and often not at all).

But certain vine varieties (like Garnacha) planted in certain places (like Catalunya) form a special bond between an ancient, hearty, adaptive, “survivor” vine like Garnacha and the often isolated, coarse-soiled Catalan vineyards that are sunbaked and scorching hot in the daytime, but often downright cold at night. These ideal conditions for the vine are also the perfect enemies for many of the pests that prey on grape vines, so a genetically stalwart variety like Garnacha so well protected by its environment can just go, and go, and go, and with a certain style… much like a particular German automobile.

What’s even better about this fortuitous combination of plant and place is that it’s not a rare one. Catalunya is positvely lousy with 50, 60, 70+ year old parcels of vines, which not only turn out complex and concentrated wines, but ones that also don’t have to cost a fortune. This wine’s vines happen to have just celebrated their 81st birthday, but just like a cool old gasoil burning Benz that’s been well tended, it gets you there today, and tomorrow, and the day after that.

I put out some bread rounds spread with a thick puree of artichokes, peas, and tomatoes (a leftover rescue) and then a very traditional Catalan recipe of pork tenderloin medallions with unsmoked bacon, onions, pomegranate juice, wine,  and light cream, with a classic Catalan side dish of spinach with raisins and pine nuts.

Espelt Emporda`Garnacha old vines 2009   

Very deep and saturated purple/black garnet color. Big, intense aromas of raw meat, black cherry, brown spices, prune, damp earth, strawberry preserves, and a decent whiff of marine brininess. The body of the wine is smooth, dense, muscular, and chewy with a powerful and  pointy tannic frame and a tart acidity launching intense flavors of cracked black pepper, black currants, blackberry, black licorice, mocha, prune and medicinal herbs. Finishes warm and  long.  An excellent value.

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