“It has some earthy/mineral character that somehow reminded me of some wines from Domaine Leroy in Burgundy with some Rayas thrown in.”
So wrote Luis Gutiérrez as he awarded the 2016 Rumbo al Norte from Comando G a perfect 100 point score in December 2018. I had heard of Comando G. I had heard of the winemaking dynamism increasingly recognised in the Sierra de Gredos, a mountain range less than 100 miles west of Madrid. When I tasted a bottle of the 2018 Rozas 1er Cru last week, I expected something interesting. I did not expect something quite so spectacular. And this was not even the (virtually unobtainable) Rumbo al Norte itself.
So after years of the unmistakeable “Grenache on sand, Grenache on sand” warble of the Larkin, I was finally able to challenge him and his dogma with…Garnacha on granite. (True to form Simon retorted it must be sandy granite…)
Comando G is actually the Spanish name for the 1970s cult cartoon TV series Battle of the Planets and the alliterative coincidence of Garnacha, granite and Gredos just a happy coincidence...well, not entirely. Comando G was established in 2008 by Daniel Landi and Fernando Garcia, children of the 70s, with the goal of expressing the unique terroir of Gredos through the old vine Garnacha that had been too long neglected. There is barely a vine younger than 50 years old here, while Comando G at just over 10 years old is already viewed as a training ground for the further wave of young, dynamic producers that continue to establish themselves. Daniel comes from a family of winemakers, being part of the Jimenez-Landi success story of Mentrida, while Fernando caught the winemaking bug working for the revered Raul Perez of Bierzo and subsequently Telmo Rodriguez, a name almost synonymous with the resurgence of high quality Spanish wine. Good CVs, both.
While the region spreads over a large area in three different administrative regions, three quarters of the Comando G's twenty hectares are near the village of Rozas de Puerto Real, with 40-50 different parcels identified and fermented separately. There is an approximate correlation between quality and altitude, with the more generic wines coming from the lower lying vineyards below 800 metres and increasing minerality evident above that. The Rozas 1er Cru is from six different plots in vineyards in the foothills of the mountains at 900 metres, sites (or “parajes” in Spanish) that give wines of an identifiably different character much as a Burgundian lieu-dit, Premier or Grand Cru would show. Comando G then also make a series of single vineyard wines – Rumbo al Norte, El Tamboril, and Tumba del Rey Moro. As in so many instances around the world, altitude is responsible for the beautiful freshness so evident in the wine.
The altitude also allows for a longer, slower ripening of the fruit and an increased complexity. The 1er Cru and named single vineyards are managed biodynamically. There is no destemming of the fruit. Extractions are very gentle and can be very long (up to 70 days for some single vineyard wines). Ageing is in larger wooden vats. This all sounds very Burgundian. And that is a conscious aim - do not mask the fruit with winemaking, allow the terroir to shine through.
Fruit and mineral energy certainly shine through in the Comando G Rozas 1er Cru 2018. The first thing that struck me was the paleness of colour, a transparency that is a far cry from the generally opaque nature of most Châteauneuf-du-Pape. There is also a subtlety to the aromatics, an ethereal, scented quality, though the intensity builds in the glass with scented red fruit, remarkable purity and concentration, ripe yet fresh. The wine glides across the palate with a clean, pure red fruit vibrancy and finishes long with a freshness and a fine stony (can I say granitic?) mineral persistence and a wild strawberry note returning at the end. I was spell-bound. (What also astonished me was the fact that the alcohol level of this, a fully ripe, 100% Garnacha from the latitude of Madrid is a mere 13.5%)
Having written a number of long articles on Gredos in the last decade, Luis Gutiérrez seems like a good reference point and I include his note below, though should point at that he is not generally a fan of fruit descriptors so I feel duty-bound to assure you that this wine shows pure, fresh, ripe red fruit in abundance, if with great subtlety. Gutiérrez also observed in April this year, "Comando G continues to serve as the reference point in Gredos." While the website spanishwinelover.com stated: “Comando G is key to understand the current success of Garnachas from Gredos.” On the basis of this wine, I myself am certainly interested in finding out far more about this fascinating region. The journey starts here.
Comando G, Rozas 1er Cru, Vino de Paraje, Sierra de Gredos 2018
£175 per 6 bottle case in bond
Luis Gutiérrez, robertparker.com, 95 points, April 2020
The 2018 Rozas 1er Cru is from a much better year that produced perfect ripeness of the grapes and therefore much better parameters (alcohol, pH and acidity). Within the freshness and seriousness of 2018, this is very open, expressive and spicy, like an upgrade from the La Bruja de Rozas, though not quite reaching the finesse of Las Umbrías. It's tasty and long and has something herbal (fennel, celery), a salty touch, a little rust and a very mineral texture, with the grainy granite and finer chalk. It improves tremendously in the glass, which gives me an idea that the wine is going to improve in bottle. 2018 is a great vintage that is going to require a little more time to express its full potential. This is often the best value of the winery. 15,238 bottles and 150 magnums produced. It was bottled in January 2020. Drink 2020-2028
I sincerely urge you to try this wine. Or if you know it already then I am sure you will have replied already.
Looking forward to hearing from you.