Viñedos y Bodegas Pablo, “Menguante” Garnacha, Cariñena 2005
Cariñena is in Aragón, an arid region to the southeast of Spain's better-known Rioja. Once an
empire that stretched into France and even included the southern half of Italy and parts of
Greece, modern-day wine-making Aragón has seen its star eclipsed by the luminaries of Rioja
and nearby Catalonia (a nation Aragón once ruled). As wine buffs know all too well, if a
region lacks public relations panache its quality wine is often available at prices so low you
cannot figure out how they could even afford the bottle, the cork and the capsule, much less
ship it across the sea and allow the distributors and retailers to make a profit.
And so here's the shock: eight dollars for this lovely, carefully-made Garnacha (the Spanish for Grenache). Mine is not the first positive review of the wine. Viñedos y Bodegas Pablo is a family operation stretching back several centuries, employing biodynamic and organic methods, and using vines that are 80 to 100 years old. All that could be just hyperbole if the wine did not succeed in epitomizing that special something that characterizes what for me has become my favorite red grape. There is something soft, friendly, and—all right I'll say it—romantic (in a snuggly way) about Grenache.
This Garnacha is a medium purple, with lighter purple tinges at the edges. I decanted four hours, and my room was filled with bacon from the decanter. The nose gives raspberry, plum and strawberry, with some nutmeg and violet.
The first tactile sensation, one that continued through the entire tasting cycle, was soft and very friendly tannins. My mouth got just the level of astringency it needed to offset the other elements the wine brought. Once I catalogued the tannins in my brain, my next remark to myself was that the wine, though mainstream dry, was fruity and fun. The fruit is all fresh, with no caramelized or dried fruit aspects, fairly straightforward yet enjoyable plum and berries, with black pepper and a touch of that smoked meat I initially called bacon (though I started to think Serrano ham). The smokiness is tangible but definitely a lesser note; this wine is unoaked. The mouth-feel is excellent, and the finish is fruit-filled though satisfyingly dry.
The word menguante is a reference to biodynamic winemaking. The Spanish word
means literally “diminishing,” and in this case applies to the lack of a moon; biodynamic
winemakers fear the gravitation of the moon will draw the sediment up from the bottom of
the cask and so rack their casks on nights when there is little or no moon.
Verdict: An absolute confection
When I love a wine, I become torn between ordering a lot of it and moving on to try other wines. My curiosity about other wines usually gets the better of me.
James Beard Award Nominee Elliot Essman
Aragón's empire once reached out over the Mediterraean.