ALTO MONCAYO VERATON GARNACHA (Sustainable)
What do Cannonau, Garnacha, Aragones, and Bois Jaune have in common? They are all regional terms for one of the world’s most beloved and terroir-expressive grapes: Grenache.
The Spanish winery Alto Moncayo was created in 2002 with the goal of becoming the archetype for high-quality wines made from the Garnacha grape. Located in the heart of the Campo de Borja DO, they source grapes from 92 hectares (227 acres) of high elevation native mountain strains of Garnacha. These vines were planted decades ago on the Moncayo foothills. El Moncayo peak, the winery’s namesake, is the highest in the Iberian Mountain range. Here, the slate and clay soils seriously lack nutrients. This may not sound like a recipe for great grape growing, but it is the ideal environment for a high-quality wine: roots grow deep, vines work hard, and plants produce less fruit. However, what fruit is produced is jam-packed with tons of flavor, complexity, and balance.
Traveling Aussie winemaker Chris Ringwald is the man behind the three Moncayo offerings: Aquilon, Alto Moncayo, and Veraton. All of their bottlings showcase distinct celebrations of the Garnacha grape. Our feature this month, the Veraton, is their value offering and is a great introduction to this acclaimed producer.
Garnacha for this bottling comes from 30-50-year-old vines. Perfect clusters are hand-harvested and carried in small crates to prevent crushing and premature fermentation. The grapes are again sorted on triage tables. Fermentation takes place with neutral yeast and the wine matures in 80% new and 20% second use French and American barrels for 16 months, imparting great amounts of oak flavor. This full-bodied wine packs a punch, showcasing big, assertive tannins. Look for notes of smoke, coconut, cinnamon, dried blueberries, and mocha on the extremely long finish.
92 points, Vinous: Inky ruby. A deeply perfumed bouquet evokes ripe dark berries, incense, and candied flowers, with a smoky mineral overtone and a hint of oak spice. Powerful dark fruit liqueur and cherry cola flavors coat the palate and show very good concentration. Closes broad, supple, and long, with velvety tannins coming in late to add shape and gentle grip to a lingering cherry note.