Las Rocas: A Wine like No Other, From a Place like No Other

la roca BOTTLE_LAR_GarnachaCalatayud_750_09Deep in the interior of Aragon, Spain, lies a place few have heard of: Calatayud. Here, the air is dry, the terrain is unforgiving, and shattered rock stretches as far as the eye can see. It would seem that nothing could grow here.

Yet somehow, Garnacha vines thrive on the arid, rocky slopes of Calatayud , creating some of the world’s most sought-after wines. Spain is one of the few places on Earth where vintners bottle pure Garnacha – or Grenache, as it is called outside of Spain – and Calatayud is home to some of the country’s highest Garnacha vineyards.

Rooted deep in rocky, limestone soils at elevations of up to 3,500 feet, these vines see intense sunlight, prompting thicker skins and, ultimately, grapes with richer flavors. Cool evening temperatures mean fruit with greater acidity, giving Las Rocas wines a unique elegance and structure.

Many of Calatayud’s Garnacha vines are nearly a century old, producing rich, robust wines. With flavors and tannins reminiscent of a Cabernet Sauvignon, matched by a structure similar to Pinot Noir, Las Rocas Garnacha has a distinct palate of red fruit, black pepper and earthy notes.

“Las Rocas wines are unique in every sense of the word,” says Yolanda Diaz, managing director of Bodegas San Alejandro, a co-operative of 350 local farmers who grow the grapes for Las Rocas wines. “The rocky slopes create vines that can only be found in Calatayud. The precise combination of climate, soil and elevation here makes our Garnacha unlike any other wine, anywhere else in the world.”

Founded in 1962, Bodegas San Alejandro is located in Miedes, a town of 530 inhabitants about 55 miles north of Madrid, in the valley of the Ebro River. The dynamic winegrowers and winemakers of Bodegas San Alejandro bring the distinct characteristics of Calatayud and the unique flavors of Garnacha into every bottle of Las Rocas. The collection includes a Garnacha made from 30- to 50-year old vines, a Viñas Viejas Garnacha made from vines that are 60 to nearly 100 years old, and a Spanish Red Blend that brings Garnacha together with Tempranillo and Syrah.

Las Rocas® 2009 Garnacha  (Pictured Above)

SRP: $14

Las Rocas wines hail from Calatayud, in the southeastern corner of Spain’s Aragon region, where the air is dry and the terrain is unforgiving. Against all odds, Garnacha vines thrive on the steep, rocky slopes here, creating some of the world’s most sought-after wines. The Bodegas San Alejandro growers’ cooperative cultivates grapes from hundreds of small vineyards in Calatayud – many with vines more than 80 years old – to create the rich, robust flavors of Las Rocas.
About the Wine:

The vibrant red color of our 2009 Garnacha hints at its rich dark cherry and blackberry aromas and flavors. This well-structured wine integrates nuances of oak with round tannins to deliver a rich palate of decadent fruit flavors.

Viticulture Notes:
Las Rocas wines come from the steep, rocky vineyards in Calatayud that rest at elevations of 2,500 to 3,500 feet. The vines for our Garnacha are 30 to 50 years old, with loose, rocky limestone soils. The 2009 vintage brought exceptionally dry and hot conditions to the Calatayud region, resulting in a slightly higher alcohol level in the finished wine. Despite the warm weather, careful guidance in the vineyard yielded exceptional grapes with rich flavor characteristics.

Winemaking Notes:
Following harvest at the end of October, the Garnacha grapes were cold soaked for several days to extract the deep, intense flavors of the fruit. During fermentation, which occurred at temperatures between 75°F and 82°F, the juice remained in contact with the skins for 15 days. The wine underwent malolactic fermentation, which softened the mouthfeel and added depth and nuance to the Garnacha. A portion of the wine was aged in French and American oak barrels for nearly one year.
Varietal Content: Garnacha
Varietal Origin: Calatayud DO, Spain
Titratable Acidity: 0.57g/100ml
pH: 3.63
Alcohol Level: 15.20%
Residual Sugar: 0.1 g/100ml
Residual Sugar: 0.1 g/100ml

We liked the dark fruit colors, depth and food friendliness of this Garnacha wine. The red blend was more fruity and terrific for a picnic or easy going dinner (perfect for coq au vin) . The king (and what value for $20  . . . well worth double the price . . . ) was the Vinas Viejas. Bursting with cranberry and dark cherries, the tannins were subtle, but indicate good aging potential. Go with cheese, game, dark fish or Brazil nuts.

Spanish wines rule.

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