In Spain there is one grape variety that reigns above all others, garnacha (also known as grenache). Spain is garnacha!!
As well as being one of the most planted grapes in the world, here in Spain it is planted throughout the country. From north to south, from east to west, you can find all types of garnacha. Garnacha negra, garnacha blanca, garnacha rosada, garnacha peluda, garnacha gris, garnacha tintorera…even more than the most famous Spanish grape, tempranillo. The wines produced by garnacha grapes are as varied as the landscapes they are planted on. Mountains, valleys and endless plains are covered with it. From the dry slate mountains of Priorat, the river banks of the Ebro in Rioja, to the mountains of Gredos in the centre of the country, these spicy and fruity grapes thrive everywhere.
It is impossible to recommend just one wine made with garnacha grapes. They are so different according to where they grow, you simply have to try them all!!
Garnacha blanca grapes can create delightful white wines. Away from the overused verdejo with its tropical aromas, or the albariños found on every wine menu, garnacha blanca make crisp, refreshing white wines. Whether from Terra Alta in Catalonia where it grows at altitude or from the flatter regions like Penedes, its minerality will seduce you for sure.
Some of the most popular rosé wines in Spain are made with garnacha grapes from the region of Navarra. Despite the change in colour which follows the French trend for a 'blush', rosé wines made using garnacha grapes still have an identity of their own. They are fragrant and fruity in the nose and fleshy in the mouth. They are great to pair with all of the Mediterranean dishes we eat throughout the Spanish summer.
When it comes to red the list becomes endless. Garnacha was once very abundant in Rioja, but due to trends favouring Tempranillo its production was reduced to a mere 8% of the planted grapes. However, new winemaking techniques, the re-appearance in the Rioja region of one of the most famous garnacha specialists in the country (Alvaro Palacios) and a love from the customer for a more fruit flavoured wine pushed this ever moving industry towards replanting more garnacha.
In general, Aragon and Catalonia are the home of garnacha. Priorat being the flagship region, creating some very concentrated wines that have rapidly grown in the number of fans as much as in the number of vineyards. We mustn't forget the not so renowned Montsant. This is a region that wraps around Priorat, with an approach towards smoother wines and a better value price tag. Montsant is known as 'The diamond in the rough'. Also worth mentioning is Emporda. This region is located at the foothills of the Pyrenees and due to some very rocky soils and a soft Mediterranean wind cooling down the summer nights, garnacha expresses a great aromatic potential here.
In Aragon, the birthplace of this grape variety, one can find some pleasant surprises. Particularly for the palate and the pocket! Look out for the Calatayud wines. Some of them have made their way to Hollywood to be served at Oscar Ceremonies (such as Honoro Vera). Also, the Campo de Borja and the Somontano regions have seen a rise in quality and popularity due to the concentrated and very aromatic wines produced here.
Our biggest surprise comes from the centre of Spain, in the Gredos mountain range. This is a dry and inhospitable landscape in the centre of the country near Madrid and Avila.
Some forgotten old vines, planted high up at altitude, and with a variety of soils including slate and granite give an intense personality and a new dimension to the garnachas from the centre of Spain. Among these, the Pegaso Zeta from Telmo Rodriguez is by far the most memorable we have tried to date.
If you want to have a glass of what Spain is, its history, its varied landscapes and its different cultures, try a glass of garnacha.