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Comando G La Bruja de Rozas 2015
Daniel Landi and Fernando Garcia, friends since college, found themselves working in the area centered around the Sierra de Gredos: Daniel at his family’s estate, Bodegas Jimenez-Landi and Fernando at Bodega Marañones. Drawn to the mountains and rumors of small, nearly inaccessible vineyard plots located high in the Sierra de Gredos, over time they began purchasing and leasing the best sites they could find, creating their own project, Comando G in 2008. Along with the pioneers of the Priorat, Daniel and Fernando are redefining what was previously viewed as a workhorse variety, Garnacha, into something that can rival the elegance and finesse of Pinot in Burgundy or Syrah in the northern Rhône.
The vineyards that Daniel and Fernando have assembled are all farmed biodynamically. These vines all range in age from 50 to 80 years old and are planted on sandy soils weathered from granite, slate and quartz. A combination of high altitude, freely draining soils, and a mild and fairly humid micro-climate – for central Spain – guarantees a long growing season and a modest alcohol level in the finished wines. The resultant wines are startlingly pale, extraordinarily aromatic and intensely flavorful. Each site is harvested by hand, usually in October, fermented by indigenous yeasts in open top French oak casks then aged in a combination of 500-700L French oak barrels, foudre and clay amphorae.
Each vineyard site, labeled as Vino de Parcela, are expressive of place. Tumba del Rey Moro, one of the newest sites, answers the question, what if Marcel Lapierre made Rayas? While Rumbo al Norte shows a more generous profile where the minerality is hidden by juicier fruit and greater tannin. Finally Las Umbrias shows incredible poise and balance weaving together florality, pure mineral, delicate fruit and mouth tingling tannin. Together these wines could aptly be called Grand Cru Garnacha.
Known for bold reds, crisp whites and distinctive sparkling and fortified wines, Spain has embraced international varieties and wine styles while continuing to place primary emphasis on its own native grapes. Though the country’s climate is diverse, it is generally hot and dry. In the center of the country lies a vast, arid plateau known as the Meseta Central, characterized by extremely hot summers and frequent drought.
Ribera del Duero is gaining ground with its single varietal Tempranillo wines, recognized for their concentration of fruit and opulence. Priorat, a sub-region of Catalonia, specializes in bold, full-bodied red blends of Garnacha (Grenache), Cariñena (Carignan), and often Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. Catalonia is also home to Cava, a sparkling wine made in the traditional method but from indigenous varieties. In the cool, damp northwest region of Galicia, refreshing white Albariño and Verdejo dominate.
Enjoying great glory across a variety of appellations, Grenache thrives in any warm, Mediterranean climate where ample sunlight allows its clusters to achieve full phenolic ripeness. The grape typically produces full-bodied reds interestingly light in both color and tannins. While it can make a charmingly complex single varietal wine, it also lends well to blending. Grenache's birthplace is Spain (there called Garnacha) where it remains important, particularly in Priorat where winemakers enjoy great liberties in blending Grenache with other varieties. Today it might be most well associated with the red blends of the Southern Rhône, namely Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Côtes du Rhône and its Villages. The Italian island of Sardinia produces bold, rustic Grenache (there called Cannonau) whereas in California, Washington and Australia, Grenache has achieved popularity both flying solo and in blends.
In the Glass
In sufficiently warm conditions, Grenache produces smooth and generous wines that are loaded with strawberry, cherry blackberry, purple plum and in the richest examples, even cocoa, black tea or licorice.
Despite its bold flavors, Grenache has very mild-mannered tannins, which makes it eminently quaffable on its own, yet easy to match with food. Because of its friendly nature, Grenache is the ultimate barbecue red, pairing happily with lamb chops, pork loin or tri-tip. Unlike most other full-bodied reds, Grenache’s low tannin level ensures that it will not easily be fazed by a bit of spice.
Sardinia is often revered for its association with a long and healthy life. Residents of the Italian island often live well into their 90s and beyond, crediting this to their antioxidant-rich red wines, like Cannonau, along with their healthy Mediterranean diet.