Get The Most Out Of The War Of Spanish Grapes: Garnacha Vs Tempranillo And Facebook
Spanish Grapes After a few decades in which the most famous of La Rioja took all the praise, now some resurface like garnacha, which was unfairly vilified half a century ago Spain discovered the panacea in the production of wine … and now we continue trying to get out of that great solution then. Without any diktat of the political regime of the moment, by pure tacit agreement of the sector, it was decided here that a single variety of red grapes, the tempranillo, was the key to the development and future prosperity of the sector.
And Tempranillo was planted everywhere, from north to south and from west to east, and the vines planted with other castes were uprooted or abandoned. Over the years, we already know that it was not a brilliant idea, and well that Spanish wine tries to change course.
At the end of the 60s only two Spanish regions had international fame and success: Jerez and Rioja. Traditional Andalusian wines were about to enter their long decline caused by the change of tastes in the world and the response – lower and lower prices, and quality along the same path – of the Jerez sector. But Rioja resurfaced strongly, and the panegíricos to the Tempranillo grape attributed much of the merit.
Meanwhile, the Garnacha, which occupied an important part of the Rioja vineyard since the replanting after the phylloxera plague (that is, from 1900-1910) was vilified, and the producers and critics of the time spoke very badly about the wines « seized ”, that is, heavy and alcoholic. And the garnacha began to start at accelerated gears.
Criticism was not going well. These were times when the effects of the soil, the climate and the yields on the quality of the grapes were not very well studied, especially in Spain, and those garnachas planted in fertile soils more suitable for beet were probably not ideal. But it is already curious that those critical collections of that time did not notice that, not so far from there, the acclaimed wines of Châteauneuf-du-Pape were made, fundamentally, with … garnacha.
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So he started to start grenache in Rioja, and shortly after the other wine regions, who saw how their wines were being sold at a fraction of the price of Rioja, began planting Tempranillo with real frenzy. While the area of Spanish vineyards was clearly decreasing (from 1,400,000 hectares to the current 950,000, which is still the largest in the world), Tempranillo grew steadily: 77% since 1990, placing it on 240,000 hectares and moving to second place to the airén -white white grape, largely dedicated to distillation-, which was once the first on the surface of the world.
Much of the new Tempranillo plantations were in Mediterranean Spain and in the southern half of the country. And there it was discovered that their results … did not resemble those obtained in the frameworks of the Ebro and Duero, their territories of origin. The Tempranillo grape has little acidity, and in warm climates it tends to give flat and characterless wines. And except in some high areas of Toledo or Cuenca, the new tempranillos have gone quite unnoticed and are sold at very modest prices. The same happened with those varieties “enhancers” brought from Bordeaux, cabernet and merlot, which in warm climates give well-balanced wines.
The rebirth of the forgotten Priorat from 1990 began to give credibility to the garnacha, floral and fruit when it is planted in suitable areas, but curiously it took much longer, even there, to recover the mazuelo or cariñena, initially despised because it was known only as a variety of high performance and low finesse. And in the whole of Spain until after 2000, the presence of other native castes was not seriously reconsidered, well adapted to their homeland, which with a careful viticulture and elaboration could give wines much better and with much more personality than He had believed himself.
In Mediterranean Spain, the Garnacha itself and its neighbors in the southeast, bobal and monastrell, have come out of their ostracism thanks to the efforts of some winemakers with will and talent such as Toni Sarrión in Valencia or José María Vicente in Murcia. In the west and northwest of the country, the mencía del Bierzo and Galicia, the Salamanca rufete or the long ignored minority Galician red castes are emerging from anonymity. And the once vilified Garnacha is the protagonist of the international wine boom in Gredos, where these old vines only fed until recently cooperatives that sold grass wines in liter bottles.
The passion for the native grape must be nuanced: French grapes such as the Alicante bouschet or Garnacha tintorera, so present in Almansa and other areas, the trousseau del Jura that over the centuries has come under different local names to Asturias, Galicia, Portugal and even the Canary Islands, or the syrah that adapts well to certain Spanish terroirs, are also contributing to the recovery of wines with personality in our country. But it is evident everywhere the reaction against tempranillitis that so much time and so much ground has made us lose over these decades.
It is a good time, then, to meet again with Spanish reds cut by different patterns and that better reflect, not only the grape variety, but the homeland, transferred to the nose and mouth of the consumer by that variety. Trepat de la Conca de Barberà, Callet de Mallorca, black listán de Canarias, espadeiro de las Rías Baixas … We are recovering from that obsession with the tempranillo.