(Part 3 of a short series about Vintae – to read parts one and two please visit click Cork Talk.)

 After several years of research and discussion the Vintae Group has decided to launch their ‘Proyecto Garnachas de España’ and I have been lucky enough to taste their first two wines of the five that will eventually be on the market. I can’t wait to taste the final three!

 Garnacha (aka Grenache, particularly in France, but also in other parts of the world) is in fact the most widely grown wine variety grown on the planet. As such it has, in some quarters, suffered some criticism – big cannot be beautiful. But Cork Talk readers know that whilst this can be the case, it doesn’t have to be. There are, for example, several huge wine producers in Spain who make very good to excellent wines without compromising on standards just because of the volume of their production.

 Sure, you can find poor quality Garnachas, but this, clearly, is the fault of the winemaking, the vineyard maintenance, or the vineyard’s situation (or all three) and not of the variety. Garnacha rocks! Taste the wine from Priorat, Tarragona and Montsant and tell me that Garnacha makes poor wines – no way!

 Vintae are in the vanguard of the Garnacha Appreciation Society and are quietly doing their bit to ensure that the reputation of this noble grape is restored to its rightful heights.

 I’ve recently returned from a fact finding and thoroughly enchanting visit to La Rioja where I was tutored in the difference that soil types can make to the finished wine product, taught by none other than Antonio Palacios of the most famous winemaking family in Spain! Please don’t tell me that ‘terroir’ is an airy-fairy concept invented by the French to try and better the New World wine invasion! Terroir and in particular, soil type, can make a huge difference.

 This is basically the nub of the Garnacha project. Vintae’s aim is to produce Garnacha in different locations in Spain, from La Rioja to Priorat, in very different soils, and of course, micro-climates. They hope to show how varied the aromas and flavours can be and indeed how well Garnacha is able to adapt to different conditions, different terroirs.

 Firstly I have to say that whoever designed the bottle label deserves an award. Harry Potter-esque the thick, gnarled ancient vine is shown above ground in perfect, green-leafed health, whilst below ground the suffering roots search metres deep for what little scraps of nourishment and water they can find. It pulls you towards the bottle like a J.K. Rowling spell.

 La Garnacha Salvaje del Moncayo is a wine made from 50 year old vines grown north of Zaragoza at abut 800 metres above sea level. The rocky soil lacks nourishment making the plant’s roots search deeply for nutrients. The rocks and stones afford excellent drainage as well as acting as heat conductors gradually releasing the sunshine of the day to warm the plant slightly during the night-time freezing temperatures of winter.

 And the resulting wine – super, fresh, fruit driven, but subtle too with dark and light red fruits mixing attractively with mineral notes and faint mountain herbs. There’s mature tannin and acidity but a roundness that calls for a second glass. Its light mouthfeel belies the 14·5% abv, making it a wine to be enjoyed as a rather special drink on its own or with food, perhaps game from the adjacent countryside.

 Whilst the above wine’s label shows a daylight view, La Garnacha Olvidada de Aragon pictures sunset above ground with the same long roots doing their job below the surface. This Garnacha comes from a little further south and east, in the area of Calatayud.

 Here the south-facing limestone soils offer a more mineral influence to the wine which comes from vines planted in 1940. There’s a touch of bay leaf on the nose along with earthy notes before the deep and dark fruits come through with integrated French oak (in which the wine matured for 10 months) adding to both the aroma and the taste.

 Mature, sweetish tannin, some acidity, mineral notes again and a final fruity thrust all combine on the finish of this deeply flavoured wine, a classic to serve with an excellent meat-based dinner.

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