Monday, October 6, 2008

Borsao - Spanish Grenache

I told you the name Jorge Ordonez would appear frequently in these pages. He is the importer bringing in some of the most exciting Spanish wines available. One of the stars of his portfolio from the very beginning is Bodegas Borsao. Bodegas simply means cellar when used as a wine term and Borsao is the name of the producer. They are located in Campo de Borja just south of the eastern end of the D.O. of Rioja. While the grape used primarily in much more famous Rioja is Tempranillo, Grenache is king in Borja. This wine is located in the town of Borja which traces its history back to the 4th Century B.C., albeit under a slightly different name (Bursao according to Mr. Ordonez). The winery was founded in 1958 and makes nothing but Grenache (Garnacha in Spanish) dominant wines. Grenache is most frequently found in blends from the Southern Rhone Valley, especially Cotes du Rhone. Chateauneuf du Pape is also usually Grenache driven.

Grenache, like Zinfandel, produces significantly more powerful. complex and interesting wines as the vines age. Young Grenache vines produce pretty, red fruited (especially strawberry and raspberry) wines with some black pepper on the palate. I sometimes think of these as deeper, brawnier Beaujolais. As the vines age however, the grapes pick up complexity and richness and eventually can be quite dark in the glass with bigger mouthfeel more serious impressions.

Borsao is making compelling Grenache for a mere pittance.
  1. The introductory level is called Vina Borgia and is made from 100% Garnacha. The grapes are fermented in stainless steel to preserve freshness and fruity exuberance. The 2006 is still available here in Portland and it offers juicy primary notes of dark berries and hints of white pepper. It is simple, delicious and quite quaffable. This would be okay to serve with a slight chill if you so desired. Perfect for pizza, burgers, and most cheeses. A Tuesday night wine to keep around the house in quantity, especially when you can find it for around $7. They also bottle the wine in magnums for larger gatherings.
  2. Borsao, confusingly enough is the name of their next offering, tipping the scales at a still reasonable $8-$9. This one is blended with Tempranillo, usually 15-20 percent. It is always a bit more structured and has more weight to it, although it is also stainless steel fermented. The 2006 shows some smoky notes, more spice (mostly black pepper) and a firmer, more structured finish. This is a wine for pairing with grilled meats, red sauces and heartier cheeses. The 2007 (tasted a few months ago as a sample) appears to be a bit juicier and less firm, with more red fruits than dark. this wine usually benefits from some time in bottle (months not years) and the 2006 is drinking beautifully now.
  3. A new wine, called Monte Oton (100% Garnacha) is currently taking Portland by storm. The 2007 vintage is the first to come to the city and by all responses it is a huge hit. Darker still than the Borsao, this is full of dark berry fruit and very pronounced black pepper notes on the palate. It appears to have been at least aged in oak for some period of time, although clearly not too long as the vintage was available out of Spain months ago. There is not much noticeable tannin, like the Vina Borgia, but this is much more substantial. Even steak would be a good match here, although the strengths would be along the lines of the matches for Borsao. Its polka-dot label reminds me of those terrible candies that came attached to paper, and inevitably tasted of the same. Fortunately, the similarity ends there. This is a wine which might even benefit from another year in cellar, although it is certainly not necessary. $8-$9
  4. Keep your eyes peeled for the Tres Picos, always one of my favorites. The 2006 is long ago sold out, but the 2007 should be arriving soon...

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