Jeb Dunnuck 91
Another one of those incredible value that readers are going to love is the 2017 Garnatxa Negra, which is 100% Grenache from high elevation sandy, granitic soils, all hand-harvested, destemmed, and aged three months in new French oak. Loads of kirsch liqueur, black cherries, licorice, and scorched earth notes all emerge from this medium-bodied, nicely balanced red that has a classy style, good acidity, and fine tannins. It sells for a song yet is the real deal.
The Garnatxa Negra from Espelt comes from their highest elevation vineyard, Rabós, tucked in the Alberes Nature Reserve Area. These are the oldest vines on the property with centenary Garnatxa Negra and Carinyena grow on sandy slate and granite soils. While there are plenty of inexpensive, fruit-forward Garnachas coming from Spain, few have the depth of minerality and complexity found in this old-vine cuvée.
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Warm, sunny places where mountains meet the sea are always popular holiday destinations for the sun-starved, northern tourists who flock to the beaches of the Costa Brava for their yearly dose of vitamin-D and fresh seafood. The local DO supplies many of them with plenty of lubrication in the form of abundant, inexpensive and simple wine of a pinkish hue that matches their sun-burned skin. Like many destination DOs, the quality of the wine is in inverse proportion to the number of hotel bookings so there are few truly remarkable estates. Those farming steep hillsides in the back-country and focusing on indigenous varieties are usually the best bet.
One such property is owned by the Espelt family, who for centuries have grown grapes in Empordà. In the early 2000s they built a cellar and began bottling wines under their name. Headed Anna Espelt, the inheritor of generations of grape growers in Empordà, the farming is certified organic by ECOCERT, not only because it makes better wines, but because the vineyards are located on a mix of sandy granite, limestone and slate in and around several nature preserves in the area. Indigenous varieties and styles are promoted at Espelt from their fresh, crisp whites to their mineral and spicy reds before finishing on a pair of delectable fortified wines.