Here at WineTrust we believe it is time this grape variety was celebrated; they even have a day for it! Find out more about the humble Grenache (Garnacha) grape and WineTrust’s Grenache selection – get behind this great variety by trying some for yourself!
It’s that time of year again, the annual International Grenache Day is upon us! On Friday 18th September the Grenache Symposium Association is encouraging everyone to have a glass or share a bottle of Grenache wine with friends and family. Any why not!?
With nearly 200,000 hectares planted worldwide there is plenty of it to enjoy. And why you sample some of the delicious offerings out there (not least WineTrust’s own Grenache wines!) you are simultaneously promoting a variety that deserves some time in the limelight.
“If you were to line up the following 3 wines from a good vintage – Château Rayas, Domaine Pegau Cuvée da Capo and Alvaro Palacios l’Ermita – into ANY world class fine wine line up, they would comfortably challenge all other standard bearers made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir or Syrah. And yet these names may not be over familiar, or just as importantly that they are all made exclusively or predominantly from the Grenache grape!” Nick Adams MW
This “Cinderella” grape is a universal traveller and makes red and rosé wines of distinction at all levels and prices, deserving far greater recognition than it generally receives. So without further a do…
INTRODUCING GRENACHE, AKA GARNACHA, GARNATXA, GRANACHA, GIRONET, CANNONAU, ALICANTE, ARAGONAIS, NAVARRA…
Grenache is thought to have originated in Spain, but some say it is native to Sardinia where it went by the name of Cannonau. The Crown of Aragon occupied the island in the 14th century, so it is likely the grape was brought to Spanish shores this way.
The Spanish call it Garnacha, the French name Grenache now the go-to synonym; nevertheless, it is still considered a flagship variety of the former, while France has the highest proportion of Grenache vineyards by nation, at 90,993 hectares.
An unsung hero, Grenache is a pivotal ingredient in many of our favourite wine blends: wines of the Rhône, not least the eminent Châteauneuf-du-Pape; Rosé blends from Southern France, including forever-popular Provence Rosés; and the likes of Rioja, Campo de Borja and Priorat in Northern Spain. New World producers have really taken a shine to this Old World grape, now planted far beyond its Mediterranean heartland.
Alas, perhaps due to its extensiveness and use in blends Grenache may feel a tad common, unromantic. But we prefer to think of it as popular – it is being used for a reason!
Nevertheless, its prevalence may be contributing to its image (or lack of!) problem. Back in Spain, the grape can be overshadowed by other national poster-child grapes, particularly Tempranillo which attracts a large and passionate following. Its international presence may hinder producers from having a similar attachment, while its name hides behind more popularised blends.
Another problem, many may associate Grenache with some of the poorer quality, overly alcoholic wines that are knocking about. Ironically, the Grenache came under threat from the EU vine pull scheme in the 1980’s and 90’s, the removal of vineyards reflecting this grape’s unpopular side. A further 40000 hectares lost in the 2000’s, particularly under threat are the old vines in Spain and France – a precious resource that serve to boost Grenache’s quality image.
The Cinderella of the wine world, Grenache is responsible for some of the best blends and products on the market. A grape that deserves to stand on its own two feet, up and coming regions such as the Priorat are really showcasing the potential of Grenache to produce top quality wines.
“it’s important to get more people to taste Grenache (and recognize its contribution to certain blends), to emphasise its Mediterranean links, to talk about its diversity as a one-stop grape, and to use the fame of its most celebrated home, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, to promote the variety as a whole.” Tim Atkin, MW
THIS IS WHERE YOU COME IN…
Opening a bottle of wine on a Friday evening is nothing new to many of us, we simply ask that on the 18th September you consider making it Grenache based!
Grenache produces red wines of a rich texture and ripe red berries and soft fruit flavours, accompanied with a measure of Indian spice notes. Always soft, creamy and pleasing, Grenache makes for a very generous style of red wine, wherever it’s grown and made.
The Grenache Symposium Association’s Grenache Night: a few thoughts
Sample WineTrust’s selection of Grenache wines below; have a night in with friends and family or simply sample for your own enjoyment. Whatever your plans, be sure to give a little toast to this humble variety on the 18th September (and beyond!).
WINETRUST’S GRENACHE SELECTION
Our selection of wine featuring Grenache is showcasing the best this grape has to offer. Featuring Spanish Garnacha and classic French blends, as well as New World offerings and Grenache Rosé – we even found you a dessert wine, a fantastic alternative!
Bodegas Borsao: we can’t kickstart the collection without these fabulous producers from Spain. Considered a benchmark for quality Garnacha wines, Borsao represent unbelievable value for money. The great Robert Parker even declared it himself, calling the 2011 Selección Tinto “possibly the single greatest dry red wine value in the world”; we are not one to argue, we too where taken aback by Borsao’s generosity!
From Campo de Borja – which Borsao declare the “Empire of the Garnacha” – is a small appellation South East of Rioja. The conditions are great for Garnacha production, with warm summers but high altitude and cool nights creating the perfect ripeness and acidity in the grapes.
Absolutely superb value. Fresh, smooth, raspberry fruit with a hint of olives and white pepper, this wine packs in plenty of flavour and quality for such a small price.
Perfect with rustic and simple stews and casseroles, or a hearty chilli con carne.
This wine impressed us as much as it did Robert Parker. Wonderful concentration with a lovely velvet texture and more savoury elements mingling with a pureplum fruitiness. Another example of superb value for money.
Good accompaniment to meat dishes and can handle spice. Try with chicken and chorizo paella.
Alvaro Palacios: Another fantastic advocate for the Garnacha. A poineer of Spanish wine, many consider Alvaro to have single handedly revived the reputation of the once neglected region, Priorat.
Priorat is experiencing a Renaissance and is now one of Spain’s finest producing regions – some consider THE finest – being one of only two to qualify as DOCa, the highest level certification for a Spanish wine region.
The Garnacha grape is very much leading that charge, along with the likes of Alvaro – who was awarded the 2015 Decanter Man of the Year Award. A deserving accolade. Alvaro’s l’Ermita, also made from Garnacha, is considered by some the finest Spanish wine on the market (but at a price!).
As comes with prestige and reputation, the price of Alvaro’s wine tend to take an upward trajectory. But for as little as £18, not only can you experience the craftmanship of one of Spain’s greatest winemarkers but the fantastic qualities the Garnacha grape brings to the wine.
A powerful heady mix of Garnacha and Carignan (with a touch of Syrah and Cabernet), full of herby, spicy blueberry fruit and jam flavours. Beautifully packaged, this wine is bound to be a hit.
A must for shepherd’s pie (with a dash of Worcester sauce), sausages in onion gravy, stews and casseroles.
This southern Rhône appellation is perhaps one of the most famous in the wider Côtes du Rhône region. As it name suggests, the area does indeed have papal origins. In 14th century, the papacy was relocated to the town of Avignon. Pope John XXII, who regularly drank the wines produced north of the city, did much to aid wine making practices there and the local wines soon became known as “Vin du Pape”.
Grenache is by far the dominant variety accounting for over 70% vines planted, and is therefore integral to the continued success and popularity of this historic appellation. The key to producing fantastic Grenache based wine is to use old and low yielding vines; some of the oldest vines are over 100 years old!
Bosquet Des Papes: One of the modern front runners in the appellation, since the 2006 release there has been a sea change in the level of concentration and quality here. Always a solid, sure bet in the appellation, the wines have stepped up to a new level and the Domaine is rightly regarded now as one of the top 20 in the whole of the region.
The Domaine is run by the Boiron family have been involved in the estate for five generations. Today the company is run by winemaker Nicolas who joined in 1995 and gradually took over from his father Maurice. With access to old Grenache vines, the majority of the vineyard holdings have been in place since day one, when Maurice founded the estate in the 1960’s.
Lovely red berry fruit and cracked pepper nose – on the palate powerful, but supple blend of leaf tea, black and blue fruits, beef stock and Asian spice. Very forward and expressive now but has the structure and density to age and improve comfortably for 10-15 years more. Hugely enjoyable!
“Dark crimson. Cool nose. Energetic, supple fruit. Great spread of flavours on the finish… Extremely well-made wine. Promises well.” Jancis Robinson MW
No surprises – drink with full bodied and flavoured dishes – roasted red meat, game, hearty casseroles, goulash.
Other Wines of the Rhône
Like Châteauneuf du Pape but have a budget in mind? Let us offer a solution in the form of this wonderful Lirac from nearby Gigondas: A great find and one of our best value for money wines in the whole selection.
From Gigondas, a near neighbour to Châteauneuf-du-Pape this wine has all the characteristic meaty, savoury black fruit and smoky, pepper notes, but at a fraction of the price! Brilliant example of vibrant, richly fruity and spicy Southern Rhône red. Very smooth, supple and satisfying.
“This 2012 Lirac – from an appellation that is currently receiving considerable attention from vignerons in Châteauneuf du Pape – is a structured effort displaying a dark ruby color and firm notes of pepper, roasted meats, Provencal herbs, black cherries and currants.” Wine Advocate
Ideal with any grilled or smoked meats, casseroles and Middle Eastern spice meat dishes.
This following blend of 75% Grenache and 25% Syrah is a fantastic example of Grenache blend wine from the Rhône; under £10 this would be a fantastic wine to open on Friday 18th.
Interestingly, the Lambert brothers who produce wine ferment the Grenache and Syrah together in the same tank (rather than the more normal practice of vinifying each grape separately). They believe this creates a more integrated wine where the total (effect) is greater than the sums of its parts.
Gluggable but serious was our conclusion at the tasting. Full of red berry fruit which makes it so seductive and easy to drink but alongside this beguiling fruit lurks a beautiful floral note and a sophisticated garrigue, herbal finish.
Grenache is used to create fruitiness and mellowness in the wine, while the Syrah brings structure and delicacy. Vines are low yielding to concentrate aromas and flavours in the grapes.
We could quite happily drink this as an aperitif such is the gorgeousness of the fruit. But put it with a hearty lamb stew or a vegetable chilli and the wine will sing.
Fancy something of the pink variety? WineTrust are currently offering two wines from the South of France, responsible for producing some of the best quality and most popular Rosés on the market.
Choose from the Pays d’Oc in Languedoc-Roussillon, the most traditional area in France for the production of pale and red berry rosés based on the classical varieties of Grenache and Cinsault, or from Provence, perhaps the most synonymous region for Rosé which produces a very similar style.
From the Pays d’Oc, this offers superb value for money. The rosé stood out (again) from the crowd in a southern French rosé tasting, displayed lushous fruit flavours, crushed English strawberries in a bottle, with a lick of cracked pepper.
As for food, so many options with this fantastic wine – try with salads ( especially good with a shaved fennel bulb, fennel seeds, dill and lemon salad), BBQ grilled salmon (or even better sea trout) with new potatoes.
We personally think it will be make a lovely chilled aperitif.
Our Provence alternative is absolutely classical in style. Bold red berry fruit, lovely touch of fennel bulb and light aniseed. Wonderfully delicate yet full of personality.
This rosé is a blend of Grenache, Cinsault, Mourvèdre and Syrah grapes.
Drink as an aperitif, but it does have enough substance and backbone to cope with any salad, along with white and pink fish dishes, or even mildly spicy cuisine, such as kedgeree.
New World Blends
Take Old World blends and combine with the expertise, innovation and fantastic terroir of the New World. The two following wines are really worth trying as they each take classic Châteauneuf-du-Pape blends and make it their own, helped not least by the hot climates that prevail in their respective regions. The conditions are very conducive to the ripening of the Grenache – the result, big, bold, juicy wines where the fruity character of the grape takes on a whole other level!
Sample below from two prominent names in New World, from Swartland, South Africa and the Barossa Valley, Australia respectively.
Sequillo, by Eben Sadie: Sadie’s winemaking career began modestly in 2000 with a mere 17 barrels of wine; since then he has become one of the most – some consider THE most – revered winemakers in the country. Previously, Sadie worked with fellow Swartland producer Spice Routes with whom he became chief winemaker, also where he established his family’s solo venture, Sadie Family Wines. Their superb and sort after Columella wines warrant high retail prices; their more affordable range Sequillo was launched in 2003 and is excellent value for money.
Swartland is a hot, arid area north of Cape Town. Traditionally better known for its wheat than its wine, the area is increasingly fashionable for boutique producers of exotic Rhône-style blends such as this. The name “Sequillo” captures the very essence of wine production in this area, coming from the Latin for an arid, dry place of great purity.
A top example from the red hot Swartland region and one of the Cape’s greatest winemakers. Impressive take on a Châteauneuf-du-Pape model – savoury red berry fruits, spice and moreish drinking.
Again, based on the classic Châteauneuf-du-Pape blend of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre, Sadie also adds Cinsault and Carignan. Carignan is a variety from the very South of France not found in Châteauneuf-du-Pape; combined with the Grenache (amongst others) it creates lovely brambly hedgerow fruit flavours.
Perfect flavours and structure to go with a traditional Hungarian goulash, or mild lamb curry.
John Duval: One of the most revered names in Australian winemaking. After spending 29 years as a winemaker with Penfolds – one of Australia’s most famous wineries – John founded his own eponymous wine label in 2003. John had already made a massive name for himself; as chief winemaker at Penfolds he picked up prestigious awards at the International Wine Challenger and International Wine and Spirits Competition, including “Winemaker of the Year” in select categories on 3 occasions.
Grenache is sourced from old, 50-60 year old bush vines from the Stockwell and Krondorf regions, where a high diurnal temperature slows the ripening process and allows the quality of the fruit to develop.
Using the three great grapes of Châteauneuf-du-Pape as a blueprint, this wine takes on an all together different character, not least because of the sheer warmth of the Barossa region. An absolute fruit bombe of a wine – as exuberant on the palate as it is on the nose. Bold English summer fruit juice flavours (with plenty of soft spice) marry with the sweet berry fruit and lovely vanilla pod notes.
A blend of Shiraz, Grenache and Mourvèdre.
On one hand full and rich, on another soft and easy drinking. Would work well with bold dishes such as duck with a sweet sauce, generally Chinese style cooking and mildish lamb curries.
And finally, for something a little different… This versatile little grape can also produce fantastic dessert wine, as proven by Domaine de la Rectorie.
Possibly the best alternative to fine Port? Dark and juicily sweet this exotic dessert wine has just the right level of sugar and is not too alcoholic. Bold flavours of ripe Turkish figs, damson jam dominate and there is even a hint of dark chocolate and liquorice.
Banyuls is located a stone’s throw away from the Spanish border, a French Appelation d’Origine Contrôlée in the southern corner of the Roussillon region. Domaine de la Rectorie is owned by Marc Parcé, the wine named after his grandfather.
A clear match with anything chocolate, also good with blue cheese or as a “meditative” ‘digestif’. Best served chilled, a wine to be sipped and savoured.