Wine Review: 2011 Castillo de Monseran Garnacha

17 10 2012

Did I mention that this was $7? $7!

I am reasonably sure that this is the cheapest bottle of wine I’ve ever purchased.  I drank some horribly inexpensive swill back when I was a student, but even then I almost always paid double digits for a bottle (it didn’t help that I went to school in BC, one of the more price-inflationary places to buy wine in the country).  This bottle was $7.  Seven dollars!  I got it on sale from Highlander Wine & Spirits, but even at regular price this barely straddles $10.  Needless to say, paying three times less for this Garnacha than I usually pay for an average bottle of wine made me almost morbidly curious about what was inside, which made this review almost a necessity.  Even better, this is not going to be a tale of woe — believe me when I say that the next time I see this wine on for a $5 and a toonie, I’ll be buying a LOT more of it.

This Garnacha comes from the value wine capital of the Old World (Spain) and from a somewhat lesser-known region, Carinena, where I have found a plethora of stunning bargains over the past couple of years.  Carinena is located in northeast inland Spain and produces wines made from both local Spanish grapes (like Garnacha, which is the same grape as the French Grenache) and international varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon.  This particular wine reveals some pretty clever marketing if you look closely:  unlike most European wines, which place the producer’s name front and centre on their bottle labels, in this case “Castillo de Monseran” is simply a brand, not the entity that made the wine.  In 4-point font on the back of the bottle, the Castillo states that it was bottled by “Bodegas San Valero Soc. COOP”, a local cooperative and the wine’s true producer.  Cooperatives are wineries that are jointly owned by a number of small producers or farmers, who share the (significant) costs of facilities, cellars, technology and equipment and are therefore able to produce wine together that it would be much more difficult to make apart.  By spreading costs widely amongst numerous owners, cooperatives are also able to offer wines to market at very competitive prices…not usually $7, but still highly affordable.  They can be hit and miss on quality, but many of them have grown quite large and are consistent and reliable major producers.

Cork Rating: 5.5/10 (The cork reveals the true producer — “Grupo BSV'”, aka the coop Bodegas San Valero.)

I was not remotely surprised to see this Garnacha come out of the bottle a vivid, almost lurid, purple colour, because it is the youngest red wine I have ever tried — as a 2011 vintage wine from the Northern hemisphere, its grapes were harvested a year or less ago, a very speedy processing time for a red.  Despite its eye-catching purpleness, the Castillo wasn’t inky or fully opaque, an expected trait from Garnacha, which is a thinner-skinned grape that doesn’t tend to be deeply coloured.  The juicy nose threw off lush but measured notes of candied cherry and blueberry, dried herbs and bubble gum (if “bubble gum” can be detected in a wine in a non-derogatory way) — simple, pleasant and inviting.  Despite the sweetness of its aromas, the Castillo never came across as overpowering or jammy on the palate, aided tremendously by its amazingly low 12.5% alcohol level.  Garnacha grapes are usually high in sugar content when harvested and often make wines that contain substantial levels of alcohol, but the vineyards where the Castillo’s grapes were grown are all located up in the mountains, where the climate is much cooler and ripening is slowed, helping to control the ultimate booziness of the wines.  Bright red fruits dance with sage, earth and a slight brambly dustiness on the tongue, and the wine’s mild, unobtrusive structure leaves it soft and accessible, very easy to sip on its own without the help of food.  The finish doesn’t go on for ages and there aren’t worlds of complexity here, but when I could have bought 4 bottles for $30 and had change left over, does there really have to be?

I would be fairly pleased with anything short of turpentine for $7.  This is far more than turpentine.  It is ideal for Tuesday nights when you don’t want to open anything expensive, any weekend when it has already been preceded by 3 or 4 other bottles, or anytime you’re having people over who usually kick back with a glass of something you would never intentionally purchase.  I wish I had 10 more of them on hand for just those occasions.  Spain, you’ve done it again.

85 points

$5 to $15 CDN



3 responses

1 01 2014
Shanna Koenigsdorf Ward

I completely agree with your your review. I recently scored six of these on sale for 6.99 (and a 10% discount of of that). A very drinkable red for the price point. I do love Spanish wine – and I enjoyed learning more about this region from your blog post! Best – Shanna


1 01 2014

Thanks a lot Shanna – great deal indeed! Thanks for reading!


1 01 2014
Shanna Koenigsdorf Ward

Peter: My pleasure! Sincerely. 🙂 – Shanna


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