What do Cannonau, Garnacha, Aragones, and Bois Jaune have in common? They are all regional terms for one of the world’s most beloved and terroir-expressive grapes: Grenache.
The Spanish winery Alto Moncayo was created in 2002 with the goal of becoming the archetype for high quality wines made from the Garnacha grape. Located in the heart of the Campo de Borja DO, they source grapes from 92 hectares (227 acres) of high elevation native mountain strains of Garnacha. These vines were planted decades ago on the Moncayo foothills. El Moncayo peak, the winery’s namesake, is the highest in the Iberian Mountain range. Here, the slate and clay soils seriously lacks nutrients. This may not sound like a recipe for great grape growing, but it is the ideal environment for a high quality wine: roots grow deep, vines work hard, and plants produce less fruit. However, what fruit is produced is jam packed with tons of flavor, complexity, and balance.
Traveling Aussie winemaker Chris Ringwald is the man behind the three Moncayo offerings: Aquilon, Alto Moncayo, and Veraton. All of their bottlings showcase distinct celebrations of the Garnacha grape. Our feature this month, the Veraton, is their value offering and is a great introduction to this acclaimed producer.
Garnacha for this bottling comes from 30-50 year old vines. Perfect clusters are hand harvested and carried in small crates to prevent crushing and premature fermentation. The grapes are again sorted on triage tables. Fermentation takes place with neutral yeast and the wine matures in 80% new and 20% second use French and American barrels for 16 months, imparting great amounts of oak flavor. This full bodied wine packs a punch, showcasing big, assertive tannins. Look for notes of smoke, coconut, cinnamon, dried blueberries, and mocha on the extremely long finish.
Azul y Garanza Viura (organic)
At Farmstead, we believe the only thing better than a bottle of wine is a bigger bottle of wine. That’s just one of the many reasons why we are so fond of the Azul y Garanza Viura, coming to you in a 1 liter party size bottle.
This refreshing white wine is made from certified organic Viura grapes, better known as Macabeo or white Rioja, and is often used in Cava production. Viura has a reputation as a fairly neutral or bland grape, but this bottling is anything but. Grapes are hand picked from 15-20 year old vines on clay-calcareous soils at 400 meters in elevation. The fruit undergoes a 16 day wild yeast fermentation in concrete tanks. A quick stainless steel aging adds complexity. Wines are lightly clarified and unfiltered.
Founders Dani Sánchez, María Barrena, and Fernando Barrena set out on no easy task when they established Azul y Garanza, located on the outskirts of Europe’s largest desert in Navarra, Spain. The vineyards are planted within Bardenas Reales Natural Park, a badlands nature reserve reminiscent of a sci-fi lunar terrain. The trio’s goal is to focus on “landscapes” versus vineyards. They incorporate as much biodiversity within the plots as the environment will allow, incorporating other flora, fauna, animal, and insect life. Creating these harmonious microcosms contributes to the health and prosperity of their vines. The Bodega, acquired by the team in 1999 but built in the 1940s, is partially underground and the perfect location for their gentle and delicate fermentations, resulting in elegant wines.
The Viura is dry and mouthwatering, with mild notes of fresh lime, orchard fruits, melon, and wet grass. It begs for a picnic or a seafood spread. Take a sip, a deep breath, and remember that spring is on the way.