Old Vine Garnacha, 2013
$7.89 to $11.99
Over the last year or so, I had been noticing Evodia, a Spanish red wine with a distinctive bluish-purple label, on the shelves of the area’s wine stores, but I hadn’t tried it.
For some reason, I hadn’t even given it much thought until my friend Marlene Osteen suggested I might like it. Osteen and her husband, Louis, have been in the fine dining restaurant business in South Carolina and Las Vegas for more than 30 years, and she has built a career on her knowledge of the best wines.
After all, Eric Solomon, one of the country’s most respected importers of small vineyard and Garnacha (Grenache in France) wines, is one of the partners in Evodia, she said, before we pulled the cork. “He always brings in very good wines, and I like this one a lot,” she said.
The recommendation was spot on. The wine is rich and fruity with complex flavors and aroma. It’s an exceptional wine for the price, which currently is getting a little extra help from the weak Euro.
Just under a decade ago, Solomon teamed up the renowned French winemaker Jean Marc Lafage and wine executive Yolanda Diaz to form the company Altovinum, which produces Evodia from Garnacha grapes grown in vineyards on the high, rocky slopes of Spain’s Calatayud wine growing region. All three partners are at the top of their games and add different strengths to the company: Lafage, who also owns Domaine Lafage in southern France’s Roussillon region, is recognized as being one of the top winemakers in the world; Diaz is managing director of Bodegas San Alejandro, which produces Las Rocas wine in Calatayud, where she is a native and considered an expert on the district’s terroir, and Solomon represents some of the world’s finest Gr e nache producers through his import company.
Evodia — the name comes from the Greek for aroma and shares the moniker with an Asian shrub with aromatic leaves and fruit that contains a strong anti-inflammatory ingredient — is produced from Garnacha grapes sustainably grown on vines that are more than 100 years old. The vineyards s urround the town of Atea at a height of 3,000 feet, the highest vineyards in Spain.
The region, which is part of Aragon on the west coast, has a rich history stretching back to the Celt-Iberians, who were followed by the Romans and the Moors. The city of Calatayud features the largest and oldest Muslim fortress in Spain, and a very nice cathedral built in the 15th century by Ferdinand II, who also, along with his wife, Isabella, sponsored Christopher Columbus’s trip west. The weather is hot and dry in the summer and cold in the winter, and the loose soils are stony and nutrient-starved with a high lime content, factors that contribute to the proper development of the late-ripening Garnacha grapes.
Most of the grapes grown in Calatayud are red, and Garnacha accounts for more than half of the red grape production. Grenache/Garnacha was once reviled by the wine-making world until it produced two of the world’s top wines, Chateauneuf-du-Pape and the recent Spanish star, Priorat, according to wine guru Jancis Robinson in The Oxford Companion to Wine.
The reputation of the grape also hasn’t been enhanced by its use in this country. It gets little respect and is used as a key ingredient for cheap blush wines in California,Robinson said.
But the grape does well and produces a deep rich wine in the Calatayud, and winemaker Lafage’s skill shines through in Evodia, which is made from 100 percent Granacha and aged for five months in stainless steel vats.
Lafage describes the wine as a “perfectly balanced mix of flavors that lends itself to an intensely fruity wine with loads of taste, smooth texture and a pure, fruit-filled finish.” He recommends it be served with white and red roasted or grilled meats, stews, casseroles and blue and cured cheeses, all good winter fare that’s well suited for a cold night.
Evodia is widely available and easy to find in the Pioneer Valley. It’s a great value and a wine produced by people who are at the top of their field and have a deep appreciation for the finer points what it takes to make great wine.
It’s also recommended by a friend who knows her wine.•
Suggestions for wines in $10 range are always appreciated.
Warren Johnston can be reached at email@example.com.