You need this wine in your life: Envinate Albahra
Hip wine drinkers the world over are not always falling over themselves for complexity, more often than not they crave a wine that is glou glou or hits the spot as a vin de soif. These terms have encapsulated the modern drinking experience, and as such we go out in search of more. Our pursuit of exciting wines do not always take us to Burgundy but rather to Beaujolais, instead of Tuscany we look for Frapatto and Etna Rosso from Sicily. Sometimes we find great rewards in strange places or grapes.
Through the masterful minds and hands of Envinate we are introduced to two grapes and a place that has been hiding in plain site. This wine, amongst many that they have crafted, is Albahra, a blend of predominantly 70% Garnacha Tintorera and 30% Moravia Agria. Never heard of those grapes before? I would not be surprised. You might have had Garnacha Tintorera under its more widely known synonym, Alicante Bouschet, but I bet you’ve still never heard of Moravia Agria which is way more obscure.
In the hands of Envinate
Envinate is a collective of four friends who met studying viticulture. Together they have championed traditional methods of winemaking that bring out a sense of place, that reflect the terroir of different vineyards in Spain. They work predominantly with vineyards in the Canary Islands and Ribeira Sacra but with Albahra they are working in the Almansa region close to Albacete, a region few would ever pay attention to or seek out in their wine collections.
Core to Envinates vision is producing wines that stand for Spain rather than emulating the core characteristics of the ever fashionable regions and their wines. These are no wines trying to be X or Y, they are not trying to be hip or glou glou they just are. In the Albahra you have a wine that speaks volumes for the Spanish approach to life and to wine. Life is lived with passion. There is something much more genuine in this wine than in so many others. It has a heart, its not meant to be scoured over and analyzed. If you want something complex go to Rioja, if you want something age-worthy then go to Rioja! This is a wine for everyday, a wine that is there as a part of life. The Envinate Albahra is meant to be enjoyed in the moment.
A simple wine, an honest wine
Still sometimes I cannot help but think of the real heart of Spain. The hardworking people who toil to create these wines, who share a kindred spirit with the people who have brought us all sorts of jamon, chorizo, and bacalao.
When I first poured the wine I was entranced by is ink tint, looking almost like a cola rather than a wine. This wine is dark, and it draws you in. The sight and smell are gripping but the taste is enchanting. The wine is dynamic and exciting, it rests on your lips with a soothing and refreshing quality, but its acidity gives the otherwise overlooked Garnacha Tintorera a greater purpose. Bright fruit flavors like red cherries come screaming through and that natural wine funkiness is there for every natty wine lover to fall head over heels from first sip.
Its not just about being natural, but about finding the truest expression of place. We always think of great Pinots or Cabernets as being the best grapes at expressing terroir but with Envinate we learn that this is not always the case. We get a lesson here in how a “lesser” wine can also be a great tool to paint the picture of place. The result is a wine that is far from being “lesser” but a wine that can stand up on its own and be a companion for a meal or enjoyed on its own. Perhaps my favorite is to have this wine as a companion to having a conversation with a friend over a plate of charcuterie. It livens the mood, and the conversation with its beautiful aroma, taste, and feel.
Just don’t call it “hip”
Many a wine hipster will fall in love with this wine. It has all of those characteristics us millenial wine drinkers so often crave. In a word it is exciting, it is what we would call glou glou. The wine drinks super easy, and that is fucking awesome! I found myself halfway through the bottle before I had even given it a second though.
Days later as I finished writing this article I sat with the empty bottle next to me. Ever glance would trigger those uplifting memories of a damn good wine, and it was a good wine because it was an honest wine. The more I stared the more I realized just how honest this wine was. There is no attempt by the winery to lure us in using pretty labels or some design element that cues up our emotions. Nor are there any traditional elements such as a grand estate, or vineyard so as to give the appearance of an historic and serious wine. Instead it is a simple yellow label with the word “Albahra” written beautifully in large letters. There is a beauty in its simplicity, and it never claims to be more than a beautiful, simple, honest wine.
To me this simple label says much more about the wine than we would notice. This is not modern wine, nor is this a classic wine. The Envinate Albahra is, however, a timeless wine. It will excite and refresh us for years to come. It will always speak of the honest people working in the vineyards and through its honest winemaking it will forever be an honest wine that still manages to excite us. I very much look forward to drinking this wine next year, in five years, in ten years, and when I am old. Along with my jamon serrano and my manchego cheese a glass of Albahra will always be welcome.