Calatayud Uncorked: Bodegas Breca 'Breca' Garnacha Old Vines 2012

“Grenache is a demanding grape. It can be quite difficult to control. When the berries are ripe, the wines are powerful, fine and complex with a lot of fruit.” ~ Marie Giraud 

In Spain, it's known as Garnacha, and in France, it's known as Grenache; however you spell it or describe, this is a varietal, that has flown under the radar for far too long. It's in my top ten of favorite varietals to have in my glass and 'chilling' in my cellar. Put it another way, if I was on a deserted island, and Garnacha was the only wine available, I'd be delighted indeed. When it comes to this varietal, I do tend to prefer the imported selections, much more than the domestic selections I've sampled over the years. It's not to say I don't like domestic juice, but if I have a choice, I prefer the import versions of the varietal. 

Speaking of imports, it brings up the subject of importers, ever so briefly. When I'm wine shopping, which, let's face it, almost all of the time, consciously or unconsciously, and I happen to see (JOS) Jorge Ordóñez 'selections' I immediately gravitate to that bottle. Nine times out of ten, that bottle is coming home with me. I can safely say, I've cannot recall a single time I've uncorked a JOS which disappointed me. It was Jorge Ordóñez, who had the vision to start importing Garnacha to the 'states' because he could see the potential. 

Shopping for this wine in the local grocery store aisle, there's not much if any Garnacha to be found, oh sure you may see a domestic Grenache, or it will be part of a blend from a Cotes du Rhone, but as a single varietal, it's the exception, sadly not the rule. I think far too many of us (myself included) it can become far too easy to fall into the trap of going back to the same wine-well over and over. All of us are painfully aware that our lives on this mortal coil are short; a mere pebble in the sands of time and sadly a myopic point of view from our window of the world becomes so comfortable, like those favorite pair of broken-in hiking boots we cherish so much, and we quickly forget that we have choices. 

'Choice' is a great thing, living here in Oregon or pretty much any state in the Union, you can walk into a wine store, and the world of wine is laid out before you. There are a couple of excellent examples of wine stores just north of me, in Eugene. But it's an hour fifteen there and back, a bit of hassle. Fortunately, there's a choice to shop online, simply fire up your PC, Phone or Tablet, and you can unpack a cornucopia of wines to choose from and have them delivered to your door. By and far, that method for wine shopping is my favorite, especially seeing the minimal choices I have living in a smallish southern Oregon town. 

The wine in today's review, a sample, comes from a relatively new producer, who purchased the property in 2010. The vines planted there, predate the sale, by many years. According to Mr. Ordóñez, the vines planted during the late nineteenth century to the middle (1940) of the twentieth century; also "Garnacha de Aragón, the clone used to produce the wines of Bodegas Breca, is the most ancient and genetically untouched clone of Garnacha (Grenache) in the world." A unique clone, some planted on its own roots and unaffected by phylloxera, thriving in sweltering conditions, rocky hillsides, slate soils, late ripening Garnacha/Grenache is coming out of the shadow of Tempranillo and putting on quite a show. The quality to price ratio of the average Garnacha/Grenache after it has crossed the $15 price range is unbelievably good. What did the Roman occupiers know then, that is still true today, this area is a prime location for growing the wine bearing grape, I love that historical perspective. 

“I look for wines that have fantastic aromatic complexity as well as rich, voluptuous textures that never come across as heavy or cumbersome. To me, Grenache has the rare ability to deliver both hedonistic and intellectual gratification. ~Jeb Dunnuck – The Wine Advocate 

Often, Garnacha will be compared to Pinot Noir, because as you see in the picture at the top of the article, the color is similar, the clarity is often identical, but for many, that's where the comparison ends. While some will view Pinot Noir as being "buttoned up" Garnacha is the wild child, says what it thinks out loud, and parties like it's still 1999. But while it's and can be all of that and more, especially in its precocious youth, in general, it has some fantastic aging potential. The diurnal shifts during the summer help plum the grapes with vibrant acidity, and the average age of the vines give an unimaginable dimension of depth and complexity. Besides the mind-blowing age of this vineyard which thumbed its nose at phylloxera, the aging protocol they used, 15 months in 8-year-old French barrels and stirred on its lees (sur lie), giving this wine a fantastic complexity far beyond its tiny price point.

In fact, you can see I enjoyed the Garnacha out of a Riedel Pinot Noir glass, and it was stunning. I was taken back by the fantastic quality, especially when I looked up the cost of this bottle. When you're comparing this wine to domestics of the same varietal, often the prices are double or in some cases triple. But you're not getting any better quality; you're just paying more. As someone who is more pauper and far less prince, the idea of getting a bucket load of bang for the few bucks I have is extremely appealing. I've told my wife more than a few times, I'm sure she's tired of hearing, but I say to her, "you know when and if I wine a multimillion-dollar lottery, I'd still drive nothing but Toyota trucks" she says, "can I record that?" Ha, ha, but I learned the value of a dollar from my depression era raised parents, my father would say to me, "Billy, why would one pay more, when you don't necessarily get more?" It was the king of finding bargains. His motto still resonates with me to this day.

That's a great question, and you really don't need to pay too much more to get some excellent juice, especially so, when you cruise over to the import section from Spain, hook up some Garnacha, and you're off to the races. The Breca 2012 seventeen dollars (ARP) Calatayud Garnacha is a #wine which reinforces my favorite #catchphrase, "you can pay more, but rarely do you get more" and when it comes to #wine, it could not be more accurate. Here's a bet, few would take me up on, but if I poured this wine for you in a blind tasting, I'm supremely confident that you would have been glad to pay a full Benjamin for this bottle, especially if you thought it was from a prestigious Paso Robles producer. That said, that's not to take anything away from the folks in Paso, like Herman Story who makes mind-blowing Grenache, I just use it as an example to make my point. 

Okay, now it's time to dive head first into the tasting note, so buckle your seatbelts, because here we go. In the glass, this wines intensity appeared light to a medium, you can also see some sediment at the bottom of the glass. Overall the color at the core was a ruby red to a light garnet at the rim, gorgeously balanced skin extraction. This wine had the typical aromatics associated with Garnacha, bold, summer-ripe raspberries, roasted strawberries, trail dust, and a pleasing peppery background.

This wines characteristic, recalling bygone years of nibbling on fresh strawberries grown in my parent's backyard garden. Flavor-wise, this wine reminded me of a lightly packed summer vacation suitcase, brimming with summer accouterments. A lighter style, with excellent soul and substance: while focused on fruit, raspberry, cherries, and strawberry, this wine brings the terroir with it.

This wine was delightfully dry, the fruit abundant, the acidity was spot on in balance, threading the needle between fruit and acid. For the uninitiated, this wine could come off as a bit flamboyant, but I enjoyed the tapestry it painted; the extra cellar aging was helpful in that regard. The tannin level was layered and subtle. Flavor-wise, this wine reminded me of baked cherry pie, earthy minerality, crushed river rocks, roasted plums, and cherries. The finish was a medium plus; time spent in a decanter would make this wine much more enjoyable. Highly recommended. I gave this wine a score of 93 points. While this vintage is sold out, I believe their 2013 is still widely available in the price range I mentioned. Until next folks remember when it comes to wine, you have 'choices,' sip long and prosper cheers!

Full Disclosure: This sample bottle of wine was sent for the review process. 


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