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Go native! Wine Blogging Wednesday #37 – Indigenous Grape varieties

Grans Muralles
Generously hosted by Dr. Vino, this month’s Wine Blog Wednesday asks us to taste a wine made from a native varietal, such as the 250 available to us in Spain. Additional recognition would be given to those fortunate enough to taste the wine in the land where the grape is native, while extra accolades will go to those who compare a grape from two growing areas, such as its ancestral home and its new swanky home.

To be honest, living in a peninsula that contains over 500 plus native grape varietals to choose from, we feel like this assignment is like taking candy from a baby. While many of you may need to look high and low for a grape native to your area, we only need to step out of our front door to not only encounter a native grape, but then gain extra points for drinking it in our home. Just doesn’t seem fair. So we’ve pushed the envelope a bit by not only choosing a wine that took us four hours of travel time to taste, but is also made from not 1, but 5 native grapes of Catalunya. And although we apologize for not trying this wine on the eve of WBW #37, we felt that the impeccable quality of this wine warranted a little leeway on both purpose and timing.

Last month, we were invited to the Priorat to profile the new Bodegas Torres Salmos Project. Feel free to check out our impressions of the project. After seeing their new Salmos vineyards in Purros, breathtakingly gorgeous, we were invited to lunch with the Torres rep in DO Conca de Barbara. Kurt, which so happened to be the same gentleman who gave Ryan a tour of their Penedes Estate the year before, asked him which Torres wine he had yet to try. Like a kid in a candy shop, Ryan’s eyes become as big as saucer bowls, replying I’ve always wanted to try the Grans Muralles.

Grans Muralles Vineyard

Made from Monastrell, Garnacha Tinta, Garró, Samsó and Cariñena, all five of these ancient Catalan grape varietals were originally planted by Cistercian monks in the 13th century, destroyed by the phylloxera plague in the early 1900s, and were recently recovered by Torres in 1984. The vineyard itself is breathtaking, located between the medieval Milmanda Castle and the Monastery of Poblet. Standing on just a tiny portion of the 94 hectare vineyard, 32 of which are dedicated exclusively to this wine, it feels surreal. The rich green texture of the vines, heavy with juicy bunches of mature grapes create a rich colorful palate against the old feudal backdrop of the castle. Walking across the vinyard, you can hear the scraping sound of the slate and gravel stones beneath your feet called, licorella. If you you’re lucky, and the weather is either humid or recently wet from rain, you can smell that rich mineral aroma so characteristic from wines grown in this soil.

Renown for its floral components, Samsó has also been referred to by many a wine author as Cariñena, one of the most highly cultivated grapes in the world. Unfortunately, we’ve come learn this association is false. If we just look at the five grapes used in Grans Muralles, Samsó and Cariñena are listed separately; whereby eluding to their distinct differences. From the information I received from Torres, Samsó and Cariñena are very alike in that they belong to the same genetic family, but the Samsó grapes used by Torres actually come from ancient vines discovered in someone’s backyard. What makes Samsó popular is its proclivity to both bloom late, whereby protecting it from frost, and ripen early. Typically, Samsó is said to produce high tannic, high acidic wines with profoundly deep color. Primarily used in blends, as exemplified in the Grans Muralles, it is the third most planted varietal in Spain.

Garró, on the other hand, had been recovered from near extinction, leaving us with very little information on its history or character. What we do know is that it has a perfumed character that is reminiscent of wood smoke in red wines.

As for the wine, from the moment it was opened up through 2 hours of decantation, it was spectacular – one of the few ones we’ve both awarded 5 well-deserved stars/grapes. Gorgeous nose filled with meaty notes and lush floral aromas, while encased in pure black spice. Maybe the best way to describe the nose is eating a freshly grilled clove and black pepper rubbed steak sitting in a freshly watered garden. Absolutely intoxicating. And the taste…it’s like a bottle of your best sexual experience. Pure velvet and silk wrapped around your tongue leading to exotic flavors of stewed current, wet tobacco, raw meat, black licorice and black forest fruits. Absolutely phenomenal!

The 5 million dollar question being, can you find this near you? Through wine searcher, it appears as if it is available, although it may be difficult to find the 2000 vintage.

If anyone had tried this, please let us know! We’d love to hear your impressions.

Gabriella and Ryan

Gabriella’s tasting Note
Grans Muralles 2000
Red wine produced by Bodegas Torres in CONCA DE BARBERÁ, Spain
Note: Deep inky opaque purple with an intense aromatic bouquet, showing raw meat, black pepper, charcoal, eucalyptus and freshly turned soil. Over the course of the meal, the wine begins disrobe, evoking more floral characteristics behind dark earthy spices and rich dark cooked cherry. In the mouth, think silk with tannins so incredibly fine they’re almost nonexistent. In the mouth, the raw meat still takes the primary note but is supported by several layers dark forest berries, black licorice and smoke. If I had a grand to spend on a case of 12, I would in a heartbeat.

5 grape

(Tasted on August 15, 2007)

Ryan’s Tasting Note
Grans Muralles 2000
Red wine produced by Bodegas Torres in CONCA DE BARBERÁ, Spain
Note: Intense deep purple color with a nose that draws me back throughout our meal. Black earth, bacon fat, raw meat, clove, black pepper and smoke all on the first whiff. Amazing complexity. Barnyard, and floral notes dance in and out as it develops and with time dark black fruits and vanilla make an appearance too. Lush in the in the mouth, and juicy with a good acidity and SUPER fine tannins, so silky that you almost don’t notice them. Black raspberry, currents, anise and tobacco all show in the mouth with a light wood note here and there. Really a complete wine with so much to offer. I wish I had all day to sip it.

5 grape

(Tasted on August 15, 2007)

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