By Rose Murray Brown MW Published in The Scotsman 2 October 2021
To celebrate International Grenache Day, I have been sampling wines from this noble variety from across the Old World and New World.
Grenache (or Garnacha), which originates from Aragon in Spain, is today one of the most planted red grapes with 163,000 hectares worldwide - but its red-fruited effusiveness has for years made it a popular workhorse blending grape from Rhone to Rioja.
In Australia, home to the world’s oldest continuously-producing Grenache vines planted in 1848, it was used for fortified wine until the 1970s. Much of it was sadly grubbed up during the government’s 1980s vine-pull and any surviving Grenache hidden in cheap jammy blends with Shiraz, cask wines, rose or sold to backyard home winemakers.
Today the grape, once known as ‘poor man’s Pinot’, is undergoing an exciting revival as a single varietal. Now the darling of New World artisanal winemakers in Australia’s Barossa Valley (pictured right) and McLaren Vale (pictured above), Central Coast California and South Africa’s Swartland, this ‘premiumisation’ is creating varietal wines with spice, fruit, tension and length.
Winemakers are treating Grenache much more sympathetically (rather than just applying the same techniques as Shiraz) with earlier picking dates, less extraction, restrained oak and more emphasis on drinkability and freshness – to avoid any syrupy mouthfeel.
Grenache is also thought to show terroir more keenly than Shiraz with fascinating examples from sand, clay, granite or volcanic rock. It is a tricky grape to grow, more finicky than Pinot Noir and it is essential to keep its vigour and high yields under control.
In the Old world, Grenache is still an important blending grape with Mourvedre or Syrah from Chateauneuf du Pape, Cotes du Rhone and Corbieres in France – across to Priorat and Rioja in Spain. There is also excitement and buzz around the grape with quality varietal wines emerging from boutique wineries in Roussillon in France and Priorat, Gredos and Calatayud in Spain (pictured is Norrel Robertson MW of El Escoces Volante, in Calatayud region in Spain - a keen advocate of Garnacha old vines).
What I love about Grenache is its versatility. It can produce quality fragrant rose, pretty bright Pinot-like reds for earlier drinking, deeper more powerful structured reds capable of ageing – and even elegant fortified wines. A super-star varietal with great potential.
DRY FRAGRANT ROSE
Navarra, Spain: GARNACHA ROSADO 2020 Zorzal ***GREAT VALUE***
£7.25 reduced from £8.25 The Wine Society
Loved its bright floral notes, juicy sappy raspberry fruits and elegant dry length – from the excellent Zorzal team.
BRIGHT & CRUNCHY REDS
Campo de Borja, Spain: SALVAJE DEL MONCAYO GARNACHA 2019 Raul Acha
£8.99 Majestic Wine
Winemaker Acha at Proyecto Garnachas de Espana has sourced old bushvines in Moncayo – fashioning a vibrant, fresh ripe fruit, floral mid-weight minerally oaked style.
Barossa Valley, Australia: GRENACHE NOIR 2018 David Franz ***STAR BUY***
£24 Graft Wines; St Andrews Wine; Drinkmonger; Vino; Valhalla’s Goat
One of my favourites at a recent Australian Grenache tasting. Made by new Barossa vigneron Franz, who is son of the great Peter Lehmann; very pale, pretty floral nose, soft smooth with sweet notes – fabulous juicy, sappy elegant Grenache.
Maule, Chile: GARNACHA 2018 Maturana Wines
£15.25 Hic Winemerchants; Corney & Barrow
Impressive Chilean example from dry farmed Garnacha top grafted onto 100 year old Pais vines in Loncomilla: delightfully scented nose, lush plummy palate, earthy notes – showing the grape’s drinkability and freshness.
OLD & GNARLY REDS
Barossa, Australia: ‘1850 ANCESTOR VINE’ GRENACHE 2014 Cirillo Estate ***STAR BUY***
£54 www.gbwineshippers.co.uk; £50 2013 vintage from St Andrews Wine
Superb wine made from Australia’s oldest Grenache vines grown on sand, clay and limestone. Winemaker Marco Cirillo has crafted an amazing wine; meaty savoury dense, lovely intensity, richness, liquorice hints, soft integrated tannins, layers of texture – one of the best Grenache I have tasted.
Calatayud, Spain: LA MULTA OLD VINE GARNACHA 2019 El Escoces Volante
£9.99 Borders Wines
High altitude (700-900m) grown 50 year old vines on chalk and clay nurtured by Scottish winemaker Norrel Robertson MW, who loves old vine Garnacha. This unoaked Garnacha has bright red cherry notes, spicy peppery undertones, weighty full meaty palate with soft velvety tannins.
McLaren Vale, Australia: SANDS OF TIME SINGLE VINEYARD GRENACHE 2018 Thistledown Wines
£36 Fine Wine Musselburgh; £42 Noble Green Wines
75 year old vines from grower Sue Trott’s sandy soil vineyard in Blewitt Springs and crafted by Scottish winemaker Giles Cooke MW. Loved its piercing raspberry aromas, bright juicy tart cherry fruits, spicy, pepperiness and delicate texture – such elegance.
Central Coast, California: BESSON VINEYARD OLD VINE GRENACHE 2018 Birichino
£19.99 Majestic Wine
Winemakers Alex Krause and John Locke make extraordinary Grenache from this ungrafted 100 year old plot near Santa Cruz mountains, which was bought by the Besson family just after WW2. Remarkably light with finesse, spicy herby, crunchy strawberry and cherry fruits, soft fine tannins – not unlike Pinot Noir
DARK & MOODY FORTIFIED
Roussillon, France: BANYULS CUVEE LEON PARCE 2018 Domaine de la Rectorie
£20-£22 Raeburn Fine Wines; The Wine Society
Old vine Grenache grown in coastal Roussillon, made in the same way as port with mutage of spirit to halt fermentation and retain sweetness. Dense rich sweetness, dark cherry fruits, dark chocolate notes, spicy, smooth velvety with long complex finish; with a touch of Grenache Gris and Grenache Blanc in the blend (alcohol 17%).
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