Winery/Vineyard: Otra Cosa
Product/Varietal: 100% Grenache
AVA on Bottle: Temecula Valley
Winemaker: Joseph Wiens
How They Describe It
Strawberry Bubblicious, Savory Shortbread
We placed whole cluster Grenache in a sealed tank, added a little CO2, and let it sit for 2 weeks — bleeding off any juice that formed at the bottom of the tank daily to avoid harsh tannins extracting from the stems and skins. After the Carbonic phase was complete, the clusters were pressed off, and wild yeast fermentation naturally took over. When the wine went dry, it was racked off of the settled lees a few times, so that it wasn’t a super cloudy mess.
It was bottled unfiltered, with a reading of zero PPM free SO2.
This wine is made in a “Nouveau” style, and as with all OTRA COSA wines, is not meant to age, but to enjoy.
How I Describe It
Typically ruby in color, the additional skin contact during fermentation gives this Grenache a slightly deeper shade than one would expect. The wine spends all of its time in stainless steel tanks, free from the oxidative effects that barrels, barriques, or concrete vats have on wine. Thus, maintaining the color of medium ruby with hints of pink. My review of Europa Village’s 2016 Garnacha expands on oxidative winemaking influence on Grenache.
For this Grenache, Otra Cosa uses racking instead of filtering and fining to remove unwanted debris and cloudiness from the wine. Racking wine is the process of transferring wine or must from one fermenter to the next to leave the sediment behind. Filtering wine is just what it sounds like — using some sort of filter to clarify the wine before bottling. Think of a coffee filter. You wouldn’t want all those grounds in your fresh pot of morning Joe, would you? Me neither. It’s relatively common for a winemaker to use racking, filtering, and fining to clarify a wine completely. Since Otra Cosa decided to bottle their wine unfiltered and unfined, the wine has a mild hazy appearance.
Strawberry bubblegum! They say Bubbalicious; I say Hubba Bubba. It’s all the same. And a distinct aroma commonly attributed to Carbonic Maceration (see below, Why is this Wine Special?). You also find fun, fresh, fruity aromas of raspberry coulis, Maraschino cherry juice, and a touch of dried thyme.
Winemaker Joseph Wiens aimed or something fresh, vibrant, and easy-drinking. And, well, he nailed it. Bright, vibrant red fruit — wild strawberry, cranberry, white cherry — greets the palate. Lively acidity provides lift to the slightly savory finish of herbs, liquorice, and bitter stems. Fun. Energetic. Low tannin. Easy drinking.
Why is This Wine Special?
First, and foremost, let’s talk about the 800-pound Gorilla in the room, Carbonic Maceration. Or “Carbonic” for short. It’s an old French winemaking method from the Beaujolais region that is becoming popular thanks to a growing trend toward lighter, fresher reds with soft tannins. The entire science behind it is pretty darn geeky. So, pull out your pocket protector, sharpen your #2 pencils, and snap on your mad scientist goggles. It’s about to get real nerdy.
Most wine transforms from grape juice into alcohol via yeast fermentation. Bunches of grapes are picked, destemmed, and crushed. The yeast, whether naturally present on the grape skins or added by winemakers, “eat” the natural sugars in the grape juice and converts them into alcohol.
In carbonic maceration, however, the initial fermentation is not caused by yeast but instead occurs intracellularly, or from the inside out. This method involves filling a sealed vessel with carbon dioxide and then adding whole, intact bunches of grapes.
In this oxygen-free environment, the berries begin to ferment from the inside. They use the available CO2 to break down sugars and malic acid (one of the main acids in grapes) and produces alcohol along with a range of compounds that affect the wine’s final flavor.
At the same time, polyphenols, known to most as tannins and anthocyanins, make their way from the grapes’ skin to the pulp, which turns the white flesh into a pink color. Once the alcohol reaches 2%, the berries burst, releasing their juice naturally. A normal yeast fermentation will then finish the job.
Add all this together and the result is a wine that’s light in color with low levels of acidity and tannins, and highly fruity aromatics intended generally to drink young.CREDIT: THE WINE ENTHUSIAST, WHAT IS CARBONIC MACERATION
Carbonic wines show banana and bubblegum character and are lively, refreshing, and easy-drinking without being overly tart. Quite common in Beaujolais’ Gamay, Carbonic is used for Spain’s Joven Tempranillo, for Rhone Valley varietals such as Grenache, Carignan, Syrah, and Cinsault, and some California Zinfandel. As of April 2020, Otra Cosa is the only winery in Temecula Valley to have released a wine produced via Carbonic Maceration.
Additionally, Otra Cosa and Callaway are the only two wineries to have released a wild yeast fermentation wine. If you are interested in the details of wild yeast, the positives, and negatives, Aaron has you covered with his extensive review of Callaway’s 2016 Wild Yeast Cabernet Sauvignon. In the case of Otra Cosa’s Grenache, the grape skins and stems undergoing Carbonic Maceration already contained all the natural, wild yeast needed to complete fermentation. Without having a comparison commercial yeast version to taste against, it’s difficult for me to say what influence the yeast had on the final product. It will be interesting to see what affect wild yeasts have in future Otra Cosa winemaking decisions. And if other winemakers in Temecula Valley make it a trend.
Although Otra Cosa is a new brand to Temecula Valley, the family behind the label, Wiens, has a rather extensive history of making outstanding wine. In previous TWR reviews, Aaron has covered the 2017 Wine Ranch Cellars GSM and 2017 Wiens Domestique. Working out of the Wiens Brewing location, this younger generation of Wiens family members have set out to craft wines that have fewer additives and winemaking interventions, taste fresher, showcase the varietal character, and express the local terroir. Besides the Grenache, their initial release includes a low-oaked Sangiovese and a low alcohol Sauvignon Blanc. All of their wines can be enjoyed today at an affordable price.
When & How I Would Drink It
Given the fresh, fruity, and low tannin profile of the wine, I would give this wine a quick thirty minute chill in the fridge and then head outside by the pool under an umbrella or shady tree. It’s a uniquely delicious wine meant to drink in the background of a lovely, sun-kissed Temecula day. Enjoy this as an aperitif while snacking on a plate of cream cheese, crackers, and lightly flavored meat. And if you can remember all that sciency stuff about Carbonic Maceration, you might just impress your friends and family with your “wine” knowledge. Or, like me, get a few exasperated eye rolls.
How to Get It
Bottle Price: $22
Cases Produced: 42
Have you tried the Otra Cosa 2019 Grenache “Carbonic”? How did the tasting notes compare with your experience? Leave a comment below.