Garnacha is a Spanish grape better known by its French name, grenache, thanks to its dominant role in spicy Rhône blends, like the trusty Côtes-du-Rhône and robust Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The variety is the most widely planted in the Mediterranean region, from Valencia to Sardinia, because it represents a win-win for grape-growers and winemakers alike. Whereas most fine wine grapes are shy-bearers, garnacha is unusually productive. Farmers love that it is both drought- and disease-resistant and yields prodigious fruit volumes per plant. And though bumper crops usually result in weaker wines of lower quality, vintners appreciate garnacha's freakish ability to maintain high levels of potential alcohol at higher-than-average output levels. This is particularly effective when mature vines are grown in arid landscapes, a combination that results in bold and richly textured wines of complexity and character. The Calatayud region of Aragón in northeastern Spain is one of the most reliable sources of such wines, because garnacha is exceptionally well adapted to its rugged mountainous terrain. Calatayud's vineyards are dry-farmed, and many are well over 50 years old. This delightfully affordable example is from one of the area's most forward-thinking cooperatives of local farmers, a heartwarming red with flavors reminiscent of strawberry jam, dried figs, and white pepper.
Las Rocas Garnacha, Calatayud, Spain. $9.99 (regularly $11.99; sale price through Dec. 2). PLCB Item #3404.