While the allowed grapes in DO Montsant are the following for whites: Chardonnay, Garnacha blanca (Garnatxa Blanc in Catalan), Macabeo, Moscatel, Pansal, Parellada, and for reds: Cabernet Sauvignon, Mazuela/Carignan (Samsó), Garnacha Tinta (Garnatxa Tinta), Garnacha Peluda, Merlot, Monastrell, Picapoll Negra, Syrah and Tempranillo, there are only a handful of grapes worthy of chatting about, as they are the most significant in crafting this region’s wines.
Historically, white wines have not been Montsant’s claim to fame. Often times only used in Vermouths (Vermut), or blended for ‘vino a granel’, it has only been in recent years that white wines have started to receive the respect and attention they so rightfully deserve. In our tastings, although many of the whites were seeking balance, the majority showed great body, fresh acidity and some ethereal aromas, primarily due to Garnatxa Blanca.
Garnacha Blanca/Garnatxa Blanc
This is not your average white grape. Pale in color, Garnatxa Blanc produces big, round, high alcohol wines that show supple fruit and floral characteristics and can be aged in oak barrels.
To date, Macabeo is not only 1 of the famous 3 grape varities that produce cava wines, but it is also the most popular white grape in the north and northeast part of Spain. You can spot Macabeo in Badajoz, La Rioja, Tarragona and Zaragoza, and is considered a main variety in Calatayud, Conca de Barberá, Costers del Segre, Navarra, Penedés, Rioja, Somontano, Tarragona and Terra Alta. Similar to Garnatxa Blanc, Macabeo tends to produce very aromatic floral and tropical fruit wines.
Red wine in DO Montsant tends to be big and powerful and meant to be drunk well before their time. Wineries we visited across the region complained that their wines were continuously being consumed far too early, and not being given enough time to mature and fully develop. Having tasted all the way back to 2004, with only 5 years of aging, the wines showed marked improvements. These wines need time, and a wise person would set aside a diverse case for 5-10 years.
Garnatxa is a high-yielding grape that produces red intense, meaty, spicy and vigorous wines that tend to show more red fruit and dark spice aromas. This is the most widely grown red grape in Spain, especially in La Rioja, Madrid, Navarre, Tarragona, Teruel, Toledo and Zaragoza, but also has a very prominent position thoughout the political region of Catalunya.
It’s important to note that although you may read Cariñena on the label of a Montsant wine, technically, it should be replaced with another variation of the name, as Cariñena is reserved the DO located in the northern region of Aragon. Also interesting to note is that there is still a debate as to whether Cariñena is the same as Samsó or whether they are simply part of the same genetic family, but still uniquly different grapes. Check out Bodegas Torres take on this debate here. As to the wines this grape tends to produce, one can say that that they´re robuts, as a result of their high acidity, tannin and color. However, they are also perfect for aging, producing dark red fruit wines full of personality.