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Wine Tasting: Grenache Grows Up

We're taking a detour in our wine tasting at The Wino Club in November from talking about Rhone wines to jumping into Grenache. Now the departure is not a great one, since all Rhone wines contain some Grenache, sometimes up to 80%. However, Rhone wines tend to look at this grape as a blender, used to either compliment other varietals or if alone as a nice dry rose.

We have another opinion. Grenache is bold and strong without overpowering the palette. It has enough to sink your teeth into without hitting you over the head. Grenache is so much more than a blending wine and is our new favorite stand-alone varietal - sorry Red Zinfandel.

It all happened by lucky accident and a bargain shopping find. Our personal Wino Club was doing a special tasting of wines of Australia with specific instructions to avoid the traditional Shiraz. I was searching for my pick when I came across a store that was closing and everything inside was half off, including the wine. You don't have to tell me twice! I had a shopping cart filled up in no time. There was one bottle I picked up just because it made me laugh and it was inexpensive enough to buy as a joke ($5 on sale). It is a wine called Bi@#h (I'm not spelling it out because it's not a nice word). It had a pretty pink label and looked novelty for sure. It also happened to hail from Australia and incidentally was 100% Grenache.

Well this little wine went up against 13 bottles worth $17 and up and won. And not just won but was the first wine ever to be voted for nearly unanimously by all 15 women in attendance, all of whom have very different palettes. We were onto something.

Grenache happens to be the most widely planted grape varietal in the world. It is low in tannins and pale in color with a nice soft pinkish-purple hue. If picked early it is used to make rose wines. If allowed to ripen slowly in a hot and dry terrain then it turns into a soft yet spicy wine with a relatively high alcohol content of around 15% competing against Red Zinfandel. Yet unlike Zinfandel, found only in California where oak prevails, Grenache originated in Spain and then moved to be a major grape in France, Australia and yes, California as well.

As a stand alone wine it is full bodied, juicy and earthy. It has a beautiful berry jam start with nice heat and earthiness on the back end. As a blending wine, it offers a backbone to harsher varietals, lending low acid and low tannis for balance.

1 comment:

Alex B said...

I've just spent a bit of time in McLaren Vale in South Australia, and found that they are doing some good work to bring Aussie Grenache out as a quality wine...

It was interesting to hear one wine maker describe it as 'warm climate Pinot Noir' as it needs to be handled just as carefully to get the most from it... whether it will gain the same cult following as Pinot is perhaps unlikely, but nice to see it being lifted to higher levels