Grenache (and friends)

With so much re­cent talk about grenache, UK-based wine writer Jane Parkin­son looks at its rise in some fur­ther-flung places. This hand­picked dozen high­lights the grape's di­ver­sity and, in more than a few cases, af­ford­abil­ity too.

Halliday - - The Holistic Way -

Grenache used to lurk in syrah’s shad­ows in much the same way mer­lot can with caber­net sauvi­gnon. But grenache has emerged from the shad­ows in re­cent years in a way that mer­lot still has not. Yes, these days it’s cool to drink grenache.

If you think about it, this is pretty im­pres­sive given that grenache has two up­hill bat­tles. Firstly, vol­ume. As one of the most planted grape va­ri­eties in the world, it’s tricky to then stand your ground as a qual­ity va­ri­ety too. Se­condly, it’s a vic­tim of its own suc­cess as an ex­tremely suc­cess­ful blend­ing grape, so praise for grenache in iso­la­tion can get lost when we’re all coo­ing in­stead over some grenache, syrah and mourve­dre blend.

De­spite these chal­lenges, the change in re­spect for grenache is un­de­ni­able, not least thanks to ini­tia­tives such as In­ter­na­tional Grenache Day (Septem­ber 21 this year, if any­one’s ask­ing) and to coun­tries that have re­ally started to cham­pion grenache, Aus­tralia in par­tic­u­lar. The dry Mediter­ranean cli­mate suits this grape a treat.

Even though Aus­tralia has done more than its fair share in im­prov­ing grenache’s pop­u­lar­ity over the past decade, strides have also been made else­where in the world, in­clud­ing some of its na­tive coun­tries. In Spain, for ex­am­ple, gar­nacha (as it’s known lo­cally) is fa­mous for old-vine stock, much of which con­trib­utes to some se­ri­ously he­do­nis­tic wines. Span­ish gar­nacha as a sin­gle va­ri­etal wine is not the most com­mon, but their num­bers are def­i­nitely on the up. These styles can range from gutsy and high-ish in al­co­hol to pure re­fined el­e­gance; the lat­ter es­pe­cially where a com­bi­na­tion of high-al­ti­tude and old vines can be found. This can be seen in the land-locked northerly re­gion of Pri­o­rat where the slate and red clay/ lime­stone soils help shape grenache’s many per­son­al­i­ties as much as its el­e­gance.

Spain isn’t the only coun­try com­ing up with the new grenache goods. Pock­ets of South Africa are show­ing real prom­ise too, in­clud­ing the re­gion of the mo­ment – Swart­land. Not only can South Africa make good-value ballsy wines out of grenache, but it can also make en­chant­ing wines with real com­plex­ity, adorned with all man­ner of spices and herbs.

You could say that French grenache has been fly­ing un­der the radar for too long. After all, is Chateauneuf-du-Pape – ar­guably France’s most fa­mous grenache cru­sader – fa­mous be­cause of grenache it­self? Not re­ally. In fact, none of the South­ern Rhone ap­pel­la­tions make a big deal out of it be­ing their pro­tag­o­nist grape. The rest of the south of France acts much the same, whether it’s the vi­tal role it can play in Proven­cal rosé or even Langue­doc-Rous­sil­lon’s he­do­nis­tic for­ti­fied Banyuls.

Peo­ple haven’t found it easy to love grenache in the past, but this sun-wor­ship­ping, late-ripen­ing, pale-ish grape that loves to make gutsy wines with low acid­ity is now be­ing honed into a wine grape with the like­abil­ity fac­tor. And not just be­cause it has im­proved in qual­ity and quan­tity, but be­cause the penny has fi­nally dropped that it plays a much larger part in our ev­ery­day red-wine drink­ing life than many peo­ple re­alise. Go grenache!

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.