About The Author:
"Roger, The Wine Guy" is Roger Yazell, CWS. He is a member of the International Wine Guild and has had a long time admiration of wine. After careers in broadcasting, advertising and marketing account management, he explored his love of wine in hospitality, wholesale and retail sales. The intent of Roger's Grapevine is to share stories, history and information that will add to the reader's love, enjoyment and appreciation of wine and sake'.
Questions, requests for topics and comments are always welcome via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Note: The Wine Guy is currently undergoing chemotherapy and this blog will be on hiatus for the duration and into a recovery period. The Wine Guy is planning to celebrate his recovery with a trip to the two wine producing regions in Argentina and that should provide for some interesting new blogs. Meanwhile please enjoy the archives and feel free to email in the interim.)
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
Grenache..A Great Wine to Discover
Despite being one of the world’s most widely planted grapes, Grenache doesn’t get a lot of recognition from the everyday wine drinker. Its common usage as a blending grape to add body and fruitiness to red wine blends may account for that. However, The Wine Guy believes it is deserving of some study and exploration here on Roger’s Grapevine.
Grenache probably is of Spanish origins where it is called Granacha. Records of its cultivation date back 800 years in the Aragon region where it is sometimes also referred to as Tinto Aragones. It traveled across the Pyrenees to Roussilon and from there made its way into the vineyards of Languedoc and the Rhone Valley. It also traveled to the Italian island of Sardinia where it is called Cannonau. Grenache was the dominant red grape varietal planted in Australia until the late 19th century when Shiraz began its popularity with Australian vintners. Today it is growing in usage in many wine-producing areas, most notably California, Washington, Mexico, Chile, Uruguay and South Africa.
This thin-skinned grape is a very early budding vine but takes a lot of time under sun and heat to ripen. The harvesting of Grenache often occurs weeks later than Cabernet Sauvignon. As a result, Grenache has a higher sugar and higher alcohol content. It produces a soft body wine that’s berry flavored with some spice and is low in tannins. As a blending grape it adds some body, some softness and fruitiness to the grapes it is blended with. Those are typically Syrah, Carignan, Cinsault and Mourvedre and more recently, Tempranillo. Its fruity characteristics combined with low acidity and its pale coloring has made it well suited for producing rose’s, principally from Provence in France and Navarra in Spain. It can present some challenges for growers. Its woody vines and tendency to produce higher yields require more intense manual pruning. They also present challenges where mechanical harvesting is highly practiced. Its tight fruit clusters bring some susceptibility to plant diseases. It is, however, drought resistant and tolerates a variety of harsh soil conditions. Different soil characteristics will temper its flavor profile, with some regions enhancing the subtle spice notes of thyme and sage, some accenting the blackberry, raspberry, and cherry fruit notes. In the Priorat region of Spain, the grape takes on an almost licorice quality.
Grenache has three dominant forms, Grenache Noir, Grenache Blanc and Grenache Gris. It has also been utilized in crossing to produce some other interesting grape varietals. Alicante Bouschet is a notable example (explore the Roger’s Grapevine archives for more on this wine).
You’ll find a Grenache in a lot of recognizable blends such as France’s Chateauneuf du Pape and Cotes du Rhone, Spain’s Rioja and GSM’s from Australia. Its high sugar content lends itself to the production of fortified wines and it can be found in some Australian Ports and the French port-like Banyuls. The production of Grenache as a single or dominant (85% +) wine is becoming much more common with Spanish, Australian and Californian producers leading the movement.
If you’re looking to explore Grenache, The Wine Guy has a few suggestions of some good examples to try:
Guigal Chateauneuf du Pape: Chateauneuf du Pape is a classic French blend that can contain varying proportions of up to eighteen different varietals but almost always is dominated by Grenache Noir and Syrah as a red and by Grenache Blanc and Grenache Gris as a white. Guigal is a consistently good producer whose wine will typically retail in the $30 range.
Gabriel Meffre La Chasse du Pape: Labeled as a Cotes du Rhone, this wine is very similar to most Chateauneuf du Papes at less cost, this wine retails around $10 in the Prestige and under $20 in the Reserve. It is mostly Grenache and Syrah with a little Cinsault.
Paul Jaboulet Parallelle 45 Cotes du Rhone: An interesting Grenache/Syrah blend that is consistently good and offers some interesting subtle hints of coffee and orange for under $15 per bottle.
Grant Burge Holy Trinity GSM (Grenache/Syrah/Mourvedre): A high quality blend from the Barossa Valley with great representations of both fruit and spice characteristics. It retails around $30 and is one of the few dominantly Grenache blends that ages very well.
(The high sugar and low tannin characteristics of Grenache often make it more susceptible to oxidation and thus, most Grenache wines should be drunk fairly young)
R Wines Bitch Grenache: Also from the Barossa Valley, this 100% Grenache is fairly fruit forward. It took the U.S. market by storm about two years ago and its now hard to find 2006 vintage got a couple of 90 point ratings in the trade. It may vary a little from vintage to vintage but it is generally affordably found under $10.
Grenacha is found in numerous Spanish wines in varying degrees and Spain is also one of the largest producers of single variety Grenacha. Do explore a number of these, particularly any from the Priorat region. One standout recommendation would be:
Bodegas Borsao Campo de Borja: A good pure Grenacha that’s fruit forward without losing spice notes. This wine has back-to-back vintages scoring 88 and 89 points and generally retails well under $10.
Cline Cashmere: A silky blend of Mourvedre, Grenache and Syrah that is priced in the $15 range. This is a fabulous sipping wine especially suitable to give to your favorite lady for Valentine’s Day. Long time devotees of this wine will note the addition of a pink ribbon to the label denoting the wine’s support in the fight against breast cancer.
J. Fillipi Pride of Cucamonga Grenache Noir: The Wine Guy got this $10 wine at the winery and I’m not sure it’s available at retail but I included it because I also heartily recommend a visit the winery tasting room in Rancho Cucamonga. The Fillipi family has a four-generation history beginning with ties to the historic Guasti Italian Vineyard Company (see Roger’s Grapevine on 1/14/10). They founded their own winery in 1922. The winery tasting room is worth a visit for their display of area winemaking history as well as the wines. You’ll also want to try their Joseph Fondante Ciello, a port style dessert wine with infused chocolate. Visit them online at www.josephfllipiwinery.com.
Grenache offers wonderful opportunities for your wine exploration. Enjoy a glass soon!