Posted by: tomciocco | January 19, 2013

A TERRA ALTA GARNATXA BLANCA THAT LEADS FROM THE PAST

The family of grapes that goes by the name Garnacha (and Grenache, Garnatxa, Alicante, et al.) grows all over Spain, France, and Italy (not to mention in several places in the New World) in myriad forms, colors, and sub-varieties: Garnacha Tintorera, Garnacha Peluda, Grenache Gris (pink-skinned), Garnatxa Blanca (white), etc. Some part of each of the aforementioned nation-states likes to declare this clan of vines as its own, and Catalunya probably has as much a legitimate claim to this badge as any of the others.

The label says that this wine is a “White Grenache” (with 3% splash of Viognier), hailing from the obviously high altitude Terra Alta D.O., which is lodged geographically in the extreme southwestern corner of the Catalan Autonomous Region, inland, and west of the ancient coastal city of Tarragona. And it’s no surprise really that a more obscure region like Terra Alta can make a wine like this – a wine that is far more traditional (apart from the kiss of Viognier) and terroir-driven than almost anything that comes from the numerous “International” wine factories that populate Priorat, Penedes, and a few other Catalan regions too…

Just to be clear here, this is no rustic wine – it’s very clean with a broad appeal, but it also markedly maintains a fidelity to Garnatxa Blanca (as it’s called in Catalan) as a variety by advancing its true corpulent, spicy character, and by leaving out the oak, giving it the ability to show all of the minerality and a certain angularity from the high, rocky vineyards found in Terra Alta.

A broad-shouldered white like this can mix it up perfectly with big-flavored dishes, and the Catalan kitchen has no shortage of those. What I actually laid out was an appetizer of toasts topped with a hash of Garrotxa goat cheese, really good olive oil, chopped almonds and prunes, and then chicken parts roasted with a LOT of whole garlic cloves, onions, pancetta, bay leaf, cinnamon, and brandy, with roasted potatoes as an accompaniment.

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Barbara Fores Terra Alta Blanca 2011

Pale yellow/gold color. Plush nose of flowers, mixed nuts, minerals, green melon, yellow cherry, pear nectar, and powdered ginger. In the mouth the wine is quite powerful, rich, muscular, and viscous, but with a punchy, pervasive acidity, revealing a clean pastiche of flavors of honeydew, mango, white currant paste, white-leaf tea, lemon custard, and white spices. Fresh and bracingly bitter, almost tannic finish.

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