The SOMM Journal

April / May 2018

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Page 59 of 108

{ } 59 limit to find complex, fruit-forward Garna- cha with ripe sweetness. To the west of Aragón, Rioja harbors two different styles of Garnacha in a climate very similar to its place of birth. In Rioja Baja, that climate is softened by an Atlantic influence—bringing freshness but not rain—so the area's wines are firmly built, juicy, and often very complex. In Rioja Alta, meanwhile, Garnacha becomes remarkably subtle and delicate with its pale color and floral aromas, showing a much cooler climate. Regardless of which area they hail from, most top Rioja brands benefit from including a proportion of Garnacha in their blends. Finally, to the south, Garnacha needs altitude to compensate for low latitude. In Gredos in central Spain, very old vines grow at altitudes of more than 3,000 feet above sea level. Due to their mountainous upbringing, Gredos' suavely-structured and perfumed wines are incredibly solid—an iron fist in a velvet glove. A Grape Goes Global Outside of Europe, Australia was for decades a classic Grenache region, but its market drifted away from the variety in the 1970s. Today, however, a movement among the country's winemakers aims to revive the grape, and it currently forms the base of excellent wines in McLaren Vale and Barossa. In California, a group of Rhône Valley–in - spired American winemakers known as the Rhone Rangers temporarily held Garnacha at arm's length due to their preference for Zinfandel and Syrah. But times are chang - ing, and the potential for fine Garnacha is huge in the Golden State—making it a fitting home for the Global Garnacha Sum - mit at The Culinary Institute of America at Copia in Napa this year. Finally, the Garnacha vines grown at the highest altitude in the world can be found in Cafayate, Argentina, at 5,577 feet above sea level. The resulting wines are a delicacy of floral-tinged and spicy aromas with an almost pink color. Fittingly enough, Garnacha is also a leading variety for high-quality rosé wines, including the very subtle expressions of Provence, the fleshy wines of Tavel, and the charmingly-fruity rosés of Navarra. As temperatures rise as a result of climate change, heat-tolerant grape variet - ies will prove increasingly valuable in the global market. Thanks to technological advances, the mechanization of labors in bush vines is foreseeable and will make quality cultivation of Garnacha more eco - nomically feasible. If consumers' tastes continue to drift toward gentler wines that exude original- ity, the renaissance of Garnacha as a major international noble variety will undoubt- edly continue. Tastemakers, take note: The Global Garnacha Summit should present a most exciting occasion to explore the immediate future of this global jewel. Climate limitations: Gar- nacha has adapted over time to the continental climate of its birthplace, Aragón, meaning its vines bud early in springtime while its grapes ripen quite late in the season. They need a lot of heat, but in order to exhibit balance and finesse, they also need a fresh period just before picking time. Garnacha is also very resistant to drought and quite reluctant to have its feet dampened during the growing season, mean- ing great Garnacha wines are not likely to come from Atlantic, subtropical, or mon- soon climates. Viticultural sensitivity: Modern high-trellis systems and intensive production methods are not recom- mended for Garnacha. In order to produce balanced grapes, Garnacha vines instead need to be pruned close to the ground as bushes, allowing the leaves to protect the bunches from sunburn and retain a bit of freshness inside the canopy. It should be noted that these pruning methods result in high vineyard costs and low yields, which are not appropriate for large-scale production. A reliance on highly- involved winemaking techniques: Until the 1990s, winemaking tech- niques and technology had not yet adequately advanced to enable most winemak- ers to produce high-quality Garnacha with their limited resources—even in the most hospitable regions. The blame for these shortcom- ings was placed on the grape rather than the producers: In the 1980s, the motto in Spain was that Garnacha was subpar because it tended to oxidize, and many experts recommended replacing thousands of planted hect- ares with French varieties. This is no longer the case, as a good number of highly- qualified professionals with international experience now understand Garnacha's needs and potential. PHOTO: LYN FARMER

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