For a very long time, Garnacha/Grenache was one of those grapes that I did not get. In my earlier days of wine discovering I ventured into the Southern Rhône simply as these wines were abundantly available and affordable for a student. The wines went down well, but did not give much enjoyment afterwards. Fruity flavours, easy to identify, not a whole lot of tannin and an alcoholic warmth in the end may be fun for a while, but will be tiresome more often than not.
Grenache needs attention and is underserved with being used for supermarket plunk or rosé lakes in Southern France. Unfocused, you can end up with something closer to cherries on alcohol than wine. Most winemakers will opt to blending in order to “create a harmonious wine”, which can just as easily be an excuse to slack off. Those who venture into monovarietal Grenache are rare. There are a lot of failures, frankly, but when done right, the elegance and finesse without losing southern climate-charm can be exciting. It was actually in Spain, the variety’s country of origin where I got my first clue on what Garnache was really capable off.
Madrid in the summer gets scorching hot but the Sierra de Gredos mountains are luckily a lot cooler. Grapes here grow in harsh conditions, often recovered from long neglected vineyards. The granite in the soil means that the work is tough but it is also the saving grace for the wines as it is responsible for the acidity and freshness that garnacha needs to shine. Daniel Landi (formerly of Jimenez-Landi, now independent), Fernando Garcia (Maranones) and Marc Isart (Bernabeleva) joined forces in Comando G, a rebellious collective with the sole purpose of showing what garnacha can be capable of.
Their entry-level wine, La Bruja Averia 2013, sourced from two different vineyards with vines of 50 to 80 years old, is the perfect representation of what you can achieve with garnacha. When first tasted it was quite closed, hard even with an overbearing, almost biting acidity. A couple of days later though, the wine had completely changed. Much more open on the nose, floral and a mineral streak running through it. The biting sensation had completely vanished from the palate and the tannins were more present but soft and silky, really lifting the wine up. Firmer to the finish but with enough freshness to keep it in balance. Open it up a couple of hours before drinking and you will have a killer wine in the glass!