The two amigos putting Garnacha on the map
Roula Khalaf, Editor of the FT, selects her favourite stories in this weekly newsletter.
Fresh, elegant reds are in vogue right now, which has been good news for Grenache (or Garnacha in Spain). Widely planted in the southern Rhône, where it’s blended with Mourvèdre and Syrah to make beefy, rich reds, it’s often viewed as a workaday grape. But there is an expressive, more ethereal side to it that’s now being embraced by winemakers from Australia to Spain.
The cultest of these producers is Comando G, a two-man band in the rugged Sierra de Gredos about two hours west of Madrid. Amid granite moonscapes littered with boulders, friends Dani Landi and Fernando García have spent 14 years nursing abandoned Garnacha vineyards back to health, coaxing fine-boned wines with notes of pomegranate, pepper and rose.
“Their wines combine concentration with a complete lightness of being that is mind-bending,” says Daniel Illsley, wine director of London’s Maison François restaurant and owner of the wine merchant Theatre of Wine. “They’re unicorn wines but not in the same way, say, as Pétrus, which you drink with a steak in a Michelin-starred restaurant – they’re the kind of unicorns you want to share with friends.”
Comando G’s village wine, La Bruja de Rozas 2021 (£26.99), is taut and energetic, with notes of bruised red fruit, pink grapefruit and a hint of gaminess. As the altitude climbs, so does the finesse – and the scarcity. The 2020 Las Umbrías (£151) is harvested from a single half-hectare plot 1,000m above sea level that’s studded with granite. It’s pale and bright, with pretty wild-strawberry and pomegranate notes, and a pithy intensity.
Landi and García’s top wine, the 2020 Tumba del Rey Moro (£187.50), is harvested from a nigh-inaccessible terraced plot in northern Gredos. The site may be unforgiving, but it forces fragrant grapes with aromas of strawberry, rose, pepper oil and eucalyptus, and a persistent but fine-grained tannin.
The duo see themselves as crusaders for Gredos and Garnacha – hence the swashbuckling name Comando G. “When we arrived in Gredos, the soil was like cement. It was completely abandoned – now it’s full of greenery and flowers,” says Landi. “And by highlighting this beautiful region, we want to reverse the rural exodus.” Their tribute to Gredos is a handsome coffee-table book, Calicata: Gredos as Terroir, which combines essays with arresting photography: wizened goat herds, ancient dry-stone buildings and gnarly vines.
“They’ve been pioneers of an area nobody was taking any notice of,” says Illsley. “And helped to redefine how we understand Garnacha.”
Three more Grenache to try…
Sucette Grenache 2018, An Approach to Relaxation
A wickedly lush and fruity grenache from a plot of 150-year-old vines in the Barossa Valley. The sandy soils give it generosity, but thanks to the cool micro-climate, it also has real freshness and verve. £48, thesourcingtable.com
2021 Raaigras Grenache, AA Badenhorst
Swartland gunslinger Adi Badenhorst works what’s thought to be the oldest grenache plot in South Africa to make this fabulous wine. Vibrant raspberry and fragrant rose notes are underpinned by peppery gravitas. £55, swig.co.uk
Le Cartel Grenache Noir sur Calcaire, 2021
Made from a unique plot of 100-year-old vines on the Languedoc coast, this light-bodied grenache beguiles with red rose and juicy cherry aromas, and waves you off with a spicy, dry finish. £39, modalwines.com