2019 Envinate, Alicante Bouschet “Albahra” Chingao Vineyards, Vino de Mesa, Almansa, Spain.
The special edition of Envinate’s Albahra 100% Garnacha Tintorera (aka Alicante Bouschet, a red-juiced grape) is from a small organic and head trained Mediterranean influenced vineyard set on the Almansa region’s clay and calcareous soils, making for a deeply opaquely purple and seductively fruit forward and spicy red wine that is a pure joy to drink in its fresh youthful form. I love this vintage and this version of Albahra with its whole bunches vitality and crunchy black fruits, mineral tones, as well as its range of spice and subtle earthy elements with layers of boysenberry, currant, plum, pomegranate and tangy huckleberry fruits that are nicely accented by anise, peony floral notes, a touch of cayenne, cinnamon and chalky stones. This wine has lots of raw character and charm, it goes sublime with many food options from pasta to BBQ and or grilled meats. Interestingly, the Alicante Bouschet or Garnacha Tintorera grape is found throughout Spain, though almost never is made into a single varietal wine, which seems incredible, when the results, especially in this Envinate example, are so delicious! The grape has made a home for itself in parts of Italy and notably in California, where it is usually found in old heritage sites and used in field blends, though again rarely is the main component in any of the wines. It has played a background role in some of Ridge’s most tasty Zinfandels, plus it is found in parts of coastal Tuscany, as well as being a minor player in Mencia based wines in the Galicia region too. I certainly hope this grape gets more opportunity to shine as a solo effort, as it can be truly stunning, as it is here. There’s so much to discover and explore in the latest releases by Envinate, with each of their wines showing distinct terroir personalities from the volcanic hillsides of Tenerife to the slate and schist of the Ribeira Sacra, as well as the limestone of this warm Mediterranean spot in southern Spain. Rhone enthusiasts and or old vine California fans will love this wine.
Envinate’s winemaking is very low intervention and natural, relying mostly on vineyard work to produce their fabulous collection of unique wines, and while the world mainly knows about their stunning set of Canary Islands and Ribeira Sacra wines, which are both marked by their proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, this Chingao Vineyards Albahra bottling is one of my favorites and it is one of the greatest values in their portfolio. The Albahra Alicante Bouschet (Garnacha Tintorera) is all foot-trodden in vat with lots of whole cluster and sees a natural spontaneous (indigenous) yeast primary fermentation, with about 6-10 days of skin and some stems maceration, to extract all the sexy color and complex array of flavors, then wine goes through malos and is raised on fine lees in concrete tank for around 8 months. This wine, bottled unfined and unfiltered, is ultra low in sulfites (or SO2) and is always wonderfully vivid and pure with dark fruit, dusty, but fine tannins and a juicy vibrant appeal that makes it great with hard cheeses, rustic cuisine and a relaxed meal. I have been a long time fan of Envinante and especially their Listan based wines from Tenerife, one of the remote Canary Islands, the Spanish volcanic group of atolls off the coast of Africa that were originally planted to vines during the conquest of the new world and the missionary era between the 1500s and the early 1800s. Envínate, which translates to “wine yourself” is a trust of talented winemakers led by Roberto Santana, Alfonso Torrente, Laura Ramos, and Jose Martínez, who are four friends that met while at college, where they all studied enology at the University of Miguel Hernández in Alicante and even though they were from vastly different areas in Spain, they wanted to make wine together, which they have done with great success. I highly recommend locating this particular version of Albahra by Envinate, along with the normal yellow label bottling that is 70% Alicante Bouschet and 30% Moravia Agria, a high acid and extremely rare local grape, these are both exciting and unique reds.
($25 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive