Say ‘Garnacha’

Part two of WHY ARGENTINA IS GETTING MORE INTERESTING. And this time it’s with thanks to Alejandro ‘El Colo’ Sejanovich of Manos Negras, Zaha, Anko and Tinto Negro for filling up my tear ducts with his wine wares.

Hola, Grenache.
Bonjour, Grenache.

The last seven days were filled with all kinds of joy but El Colo’s Estancia Los Cardones Tigerstone Garnacha 2015 – also known as Grenache – swept me away.

With Mediterranean DNA – Grenache Noir is usually at home in France’s southern Rhône – specifically in Châteauneuf-du-Pape – and also in Spain in Rioja and Navarra (among other regions). It’s also the key element in the world’s favourite rosé from Provence. In Argentina, however, there are tiny pockets of this grape that comes in Noir, Gris and Blanc hues although the taste for red means Noir rules here. The bad news is there’s so little of it, it doesn’t even rank in Wines of Argentina’s vineyard areas list: it can only but fall into the 8.91 percent of Red Wine Others category along with other dark horses such as Ancellotta, Carménère and Caladoc.

For his Tigerstone Garnacha, El Colo headed to Argentina’s northwest to Tolombón in Calchaquí Valley, near Torrontés hub Cafayate. This is where wines come with natural altitude attitude, given that Cafayate is at 1,683 metres above sea level. Any vineyards planted up the slopes naturally have a higher dose of altitude (sun > sugar > alcohol, basically).

He’s usually found in Mendoza producing the likes of the mad bargain basement Tinto Negro line (Cabernet Franc for 170 pe!), extremely dependable Manos Negras (Pinot Noir for the wine win) and the Buscado: Vivo o Muerto (Wanted: Dead or Alive) line focusing on his favourite grape and terroir selections in Uco Valley.

But El Colo also dabbles in Calchaquí Valley, sourcing his Anko line there for some years now – mainly Torrontés and Malbec. This, however, is his first foray into Torrontés and Malbec dissidence in the wild northwest.

Hi, look at all this crazy rock at Estancia Los Cardones in Tolombón, Calchaquí Valley.
Hi, look at all this crazy rock at Estancia Los Cardones in Tolombón, Calchaquí Valley. That’s what makes this Garnacha so original.


The aim: Spanish style, young and fresh (his words, not mine).

The nose: cranberry, lavender, a hint of tobacco. Exciting. Offbeat, no hint of classic red plum that dominates so many Argentine reds. Exhilarating!

The mouth: cherry does pop up here, but it’s akin to a lollipop, fresh, young, a little plastic but a positive plastic. Err, WTF is ‘positive plastic’? I mean, its synthetic lolly flavour is honest, crisp and original, a wonderful juice, which means you want to drink a lot of it. I also picked up some minerals and stone (hi, this is called Tigerstone AKA quartz so that’s a clue) and orange skin. Its mid to low tannins and mid acidity also encourage gauche consumption. Elegant rusticity.

Why do I love it? I’m all about simplicity right now, and I’m okay with that. I don’t need barrel fermentation, months of barrel and bottle ageing, not every single time. This guy is honest and refreshing.

Where to drink it? I just spent the weekend in 30ºC Cafayate, and that strip-down-to-your-undies weather screams out for chilled light reds. This is that light red. Lap it up, preferably poolside in Calchaquí Valley’s biggest town. Or wait for spring slash summer wherever you are.

The bad news? It’s not out on the market yet and when it is, it will set you back 380 pesos.

As mentioned, there ain’t a lot of Garnacha around. It did however, manage to clock up a workshop of its own at the recent Premium Tasting in Mendoza in August. There, I tried Ver Sacrum‘s 2014 varietal – though I have to admit to being more on side with the label’s GSM blend that sports 50 percent Garnacha; spicier, more floral and with more dried herbs than its sibling, more everything basically. Corazón del Sol lays claim to creating Uco Valley’s first GSM, aged 24 months in French oak with 34 percent G.  Alejandro Vigil from Catena Zapata and El Enemigo has also been dabbling with the varietal; his version will be out this November. And, Trapiche’s Sergio Case has a side project – El Pajarito Amichu Blend 2014 – which has five percent thrown into the mix.

Ph: SMW, El Colo

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