Garnacha Blanc, A new grape? I suspect by this point most of you have heard of the grape Garnacha (grenache). Found through out Spain, France and slowly the rest of world, Garnacha can be found producing wines of great depth and power. Its profile is often of ripe red fruit and hints of black pepper. If you’ve had a Cote-du-Rhone from France or a wine from the Navarra region in Spain you’ve most likely tasted this grape.
But what is Garnacha Blanc?
While from the same family as Garnacha, it is a separate varietal with a set of characteristics. Ampelography, or the study of grape varieties (yes there is a specific field just for this), has over time, traced the roots of both Garnacha and its white partner to the island of Sardinia. In Sardinia, it goes by the name Cannonau and is thought to have been brought to Spain between 1200 and 1700 A.D. While Spain was under Aragonian rule, it was planted widely mainly due to its hardiness and ability to withstand abuse from Spain’s sometimes temperamental climate. With time and having only the Pyrenees to contend with, it found itself a home in the Rhone valley in France, where some of the most famous example of it exists in both its white and red form.
In Spain, Garnacha Blanca has remained an important varietal, albeit minor, lending both body and fruit to the white wines of Alella, Priorato, Tarragona, Montsant, Navarra and Rioja. While wonderful for backing up rich white blends, with better wine making technology some winemakers have learned to make quality wines from Granacha Blanca all by itself.
One such wine maker is Jordi Vidal who recently gained praised from the wine critic Robert Parker. His Garnacha Blanca that goes by the name of Les Brugueres received 92pts from the critic in his issue of the Wine Advocate issue #159. Selling for around 25 dollars US, it can be for many a bit expensive to purchase as a first chance to try this interesting grape. Fortunately you don’t need to. A little known secret is that Jordi also helped out in making a wine for the Bodega Altavins of 100% Garnacha Blanca called Ilercavonia, and here in Spain it sells for around 7 euros. In fairness I haven’t tried Les Brugueres, though I hope to soon, I can none the less tell you with full confidence that Ilercavonia is a prime example of what Garnacha Blanca can be. Below are my notes on the bottle I had last week.
Keep your eye out for this grape in the future. With time hopefully we’ll see more and more of them make their way outside of Spain and into the world market.
- 2004 Altavins Terra Alta Ilercavonia – Spain, Calatayud, Terra Alta (8/20/2005)
Honey gold with a light, light, light sparkle. Honey comb, mushroom, musk melon (strong), almost like the part closet to the rind, super fresh plum, with a light greenness to it, all show on the nose. Soft in the mouth with a medium to strong acid and a slight bitter dry finish that reveals yet more fruit. Dry to the bone with flavors that follow the nose but lend a cream like nature to all of them. Rich mushroom hits the back of the mouth while the fruit stays in the mid-palate and front. Really an incredible white wine from a little known region.