It was the label that first got to me. Make that labels, plural. Not only are these labels intensely graphic and eye-grabbing, but they are also extremely complete. The winemaker is listed on the front. The graphic designer is credited. The growing region and grape varietal are featured prominently … in fact, it’s the grape that’s the real star of the show. It gets its own series, in this case, G1-G6.
The Olé Imports G series from Vinos Sin Ley (loosely translated as “outlaw wines”) is meant to showcase the effect that different growing regions have on a single grape varietal, the garnacha, a grape native to Spain that is called grenache in France and elsewhere. Central Market carries G2 through G5, and their splashy front labels make them easy to find in the Spanish section. The back labels are more conventionally laid out, but are among the most informative of any wine you’ll find on local shelves. In addition to many words on the grape, the soils, the climate and more, there’s a toll-free number listed that allows you to, er, listen to the wine. “I’m G3, the denser, beefier G series … don’t you just want to drink me up? … I’ll be the star of your barbecue…” OK, it gets a little cute here, but the idea is not a bad one. And neither is the product. Robert Parker liked them well enough to accord the wines ratings from the mid-80s to 90 points — though I’m willing to bet he didn’t talk to them in the process. VV tasted the G2, G3, and G4, advantageously priced from $9.95-$11.95.
G2 Afinus comes from 50-year-old vines grown at high altitudes in Montsant, a mountainous region in Catalunya. Like all of the series, the wine is raised in stainless steel to preserve the fruit, and it’s the light, bright, tart cherry fruit that first emerges. After time in the glass, some darker components appeared: coffee, cedar, a loamy-earthy quality. But the wine never lost its breezy edge. Simple pastas, grilled salmon, a classic pizza margherita all came to mind as pairing partners.
G3 Caliu hails from Terra Alta in Tarragona — at an even higher altitude than the G2, as the name would suggest. It shouted deep berries on a somewhat hot nose to begin with, but a little chilling tamed down the irrational exuberance, allowing blackberry, cassis, jammy notes, and even a little toasty cocoa to emerge. Lots of layers. Lots of intensity. And the wine is right when he says he’d be the star of your barbecue. Maybe it’s the clay and limestone soils that give G3 its heft.
G4 Finca Monte Carrascal is the product of free-draining gravely soils in Cariñena, south of Zaragoza city. These grapes are grown at the highest altitude of all I tasted, nearly 2,000 feet above sea level. (As Global Warming changes the growing seasons at lower elevations, more and more Spanish winemakers are retreating to the slopes — or at least establishing toeholds at higher altitudes — all in an effort to control ripeness.) G4 also started hot, with ripe raspberry aromas and a slightly meaty smokiness. Once again, I slammed it in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes, and it emerged still tasting a little alcoholic but not unbalanced; there was enough caramel, coffee, and just plain smacky fruit to establish equilibrium. A lengthy finish helped justify the higher price, though I frankly preferred the G3 at $10.99. Maybe it’s because he was the only one I talked to. •