30-11-2017 ~ 1 Comment

A soirée of White Grenache

Starting in October, we’ve been seeing a roll out of events to lead up to the next edition of Grenaches du Monde in April. If you’ve not heard of this event that’s because it rather local to this chunk of the Mediterranean and started in Roussillon, France back in 2014. Since then, it’s had rotating venues, although sticking to what are Grenache-centric locations–something of a given with a name as such.

The next event in 2018 will be the first one taking place in Catalunya, specifically in the DO Terra Alta region. This marks something of a change as the dominant Grenache there isn’t red, but white and they do it very well to the point where I’d say that they own the shit out of it.

Seeing an opportunity to hopefully promote the region outside of Catalan spheres, the Diputació de Tarragona (Tarragona Provincial government) is putting a good deal of effort and money behind the event which I can only imagine is what led to a tasting I attended last Friday in Barcelona. They rented out a space in the arched basement of El Palauet Hotel in Upper Eixample and brought down Master of Wine, Frank Smulders to lead a tasting.

There were a couple of other wines outside Terra Alta on the menu including what I consider to be an odd 2009 selection from DOQ Priorat & DO Montsant as it was a rather hot, gnarly fruit kind of year. Regardless, the real interest were the White Grenache wines. All of them were from various vintages that went back in time to just the fourth harvest after the Barcelona Olympics.

In order of presentation, we tasted:

  • Lafou: Els Amelers 2013
  • Ecovitres: Mesies Garnatxa Blanca 2013
  • Edetària: Edetària Selecció 2012
  • Frisach: Frisach Selecció 2007
  • Cooperatiu de Gandesa: César Martinell 2004
  • Bàrbara Forés: El Quintà 2003
  • Xavi Clua: Vindèmia 1996

The 2013 and 2012 wines were great so there’s not much need to go into depth on them (read about Els Amelers) as they are all part what is the “new” Terra Alta in this era where they’ve fully got White Grenache tamed and loved. The more interesting wines to observe where those that were older. While still amazingly youthful in flavor profile, the Frisach was the wine that, at 10 years old, started to show more age with a darker, oxidized color.

The César Martinell and El Quintà were both aromatically complex in terms of age development but they showed how the lower acidity of Grenache can be a bit of a problem with age as the finishes came up a bit short although still very impressive for southern whites from Catalunya. And then there was the Vindèmia which at 20 years old was very delicate and ethereal but I imagine that when made it must have been a beasty beast. In fact, we were told it was given a very rigorous oak treatment that turned so many people off that Xavi Clua stopped making the wine. It’s a pity as in terms of a wine to age, it’s quite brilliant.

I feel like the takeaway from this was similar to other vertical tastings I’ve been at for Catalan wines in that we’re just starting to see the potential of the grapes and more refined winemaking here. It’s not just the refinement of reds such as Grenache, Carignan, and Trepat but as shown by this tasting, the whites as well. It will be some time before we know if the modern White Grenache wines will stand up to aging but in terms of grapes like Xarel·lo, this is on the verge of exploding and overtaking this “somm-awe” that’s held for Godello and other previously marginalized grapes in the rest of Spain.

All I can say is that it’s quite exciting to know that those of us in the wine scene are witness to this and it gives you hope that when bad vintages happen from time to time, there is most definitely an upward swing.