Thursday, July 17, 2014


This is a spur of the moment post.  We blogged about Grenache on August 24th of last year.  Before that on the 4th of June we wrote aboout Roses and on May 20th of last year we wrote about Climate Change.  All of these posts deal with the Grenache wine grape and its application to different subjects.  Tonight we have a Grenache tasting here at the store so my selfish purpose now is to refresh my memory about the subject, and for your benefit, here are three reasons why the Grenache wine grape may be relevant to you.

1.  Even though we never hear about it in the "fine" wine context, Grenache makes some of the finest wines in the world.  Ampelographers assert that Spain may be the original home of the grape and the finest example there now is Priorat where 100 year old "Garnacha" vines produce a wine akin in its complexity to Amarone of Italy.  Intrinisically Grenache is strawberries and raspberries but in Priorat add black currents, black olives, coffee, honey, leather, black/white pepper, spices, roasted nuts, figs, and more!  Get the picture? 

In the typical French Rhone blend, figure on many of the same attributes but muted in that indelibly French subdued and nuanced style.  Chateauneuf du Pape is the crowning example where Grenache makes up 80% of the blend.  Then in Tavel, Grenache constitutes 100% of the finest rose in the world.

Anecdotally, the great red wine of Sardinia is Cannonau which is one  of fifty-seven current names for Grenache around the world and Cannonau just may be the oldest existing version of the grape!

2.  While Grenache isn't huge in Portugal and isn't in Portuguese Port at all, other world vineyards use it for that purpose exclusively.  Banyuls in the French Rhone has historically made a fortified dessert wine with Grenache as its base.  Australia has done it for a couple hundred years and California, for most of the twentieth century.  The reason for this application has to do with its long growing season in the vineyard resulting in fully ripe berries with high sugar levels which, of course, translates into high alcohol wine.  Its full bodied fruitiness and high yields don't hurt either.

This kind of a wine grape is utilitarian in blending as a rule.  For instance in the standard Rhone or GSM blend, Grenache is the fruity bodied middle of the wine to Syrah's spice and color and Mourvedre's structure and elegance.  In California the players may differ but the role for Grenache is pretty much the same.

3.  So what is the future for a grape like this?  Actually, the sky is the limit.  Grenache thrives in climates inhospitable to most grapes.  Today Grenache vines populate southern France and Spain, Australia, and the San Joaquin Valley in California, all areas expected to be impacted by climate change.  One reason for Grenache's prevalence in the world today goes back to the nineteenth century Phylloxera epidemic which required European grapevines to be grafted onto American disease-resistant rootstocks.  Grenache was a grafting winner.

Today it is one of the most widely planted grapes in the world and while it tolerates many venues, it actually prefers the hotter climes.  The woody and bushy Grenache vine is also tolerant of strong winds.  It is now being planted in the Middle East and Central and South America.

Join us here tomorrow beginning at 5pm when Tommy Basham of Continental Beverage presents an excessively fine array of Spanish reds including several Garnachas along with whites from Chile, Germany, and Wahington State.

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