Cheers to grenache, an un­der­rated grape

The Guardian - Feast - - News - Fiona Beck­ett

There are now so many days ded­i­cated to in­di­vid­ual grape va­ri­eties, it’s hard to keep up. It in­duces a weird men­tal­ity that if you haven’t done any­thing to mark the oc­ca­sion, you’ve lost the op­por­tu­nity to cel­e­brate it for an­other year. Well, sod that. De­spite the fact that I missed in­ter­na­tional grenache day on 21 Septem­ber, I’m go­ing to fo­cus on grenache this week, be­cause it’s a mas­sively un­der­ap­pre­ci­ated grape that is the back­bone of many hugely en­joy­able, of­ten re­mark­ably well-priced reds.

Its main claim to fame is in the south­ern Rhône and Langue­doc, where it pro­duces wines as grand as châteauneuf-du-pape – in col­lab­o­ra­tion with up to 12 other grape va­ri­eties – and as rare­fied as rasteau, banyuls and maury, the sweet, for­ti­fied vin doux na­turels of the Rous­sil­lon. It rarely fea­tures on its own, but reg­u­larly chums up with syrah and mourvè­dre (a com­bi­na­tion known in the wine trade as GSM), and slightly less el­e­gantly with carig­nan, though the Do­maine Jones Fi­tou proves that rus­tic­ity isn’t a given. As the Wine So­ci­ety en­dear­ingly puts it: “Drunk in Fi­tou in the cold of Jan­uary, it worked very well with civet de san­glier, but an­other hearty stew would do just as well.” I’d be tempted to be drunk in Fi­tou in Jan­uary, too.

Lidl has just re­leased one of its lim­ited-edi­tion se­lec­tions of French reds that you should plun­der if you’re a grenache fan. As well as its Plan de Dieu, I’d snap up the highly smash­able Do­maine la Grand Cas­sagne Costières de Nîmes 2016 (13%) at £5.99 – 2016 is a crack­ing year in the Rhône.

In Spain, where grenache is known as garnacha, it’s equally ubiq­ui­tous, crop­ping up in Rioja, Navarra and, most spec­tac­u­larly, on the steep slopes of Pri­o­rat far­ther south, where it again hangs out with carig­nan – there called mazuelo – and of­ten some caber­net sauvi­gnon.

You also find im­pres­sive old-vine grenache in Aus­tralia. Wil­lunga in the McLaren Vale is a grenache spe­cial­ist that con­stantly picks up awards at Aus­tralian wine shows. I’ve listed its most widely avail­able and af­ford­able wine in the panel, but look out for its in­cred­i­ble

The Hun­dred Blewitt Springs or The Tithing if you spot them on a restau­rant list.

There are also com­mend­able white grenaches, but at this time of year it’s all about the reds for me. Rich, warm­ing, full-bod­ied and age­ing to a mel­low, leath­ery sweet­ness, they’re per­fect for the dark nights to come.

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