Monday, October 29, 2012

You say Garnacha, I say Grenache

Given that so many people want to learn a great deal about new types of wines these days, it can be frustrating when the marketing people want to dumb things down and continue to tell us about the same products again and again. So it was nice to receive an email from a wine company, asking me if I was interested in tasting three examples of Grenache; even better was the fact that they were from three different countries: Spain, France and the United States. Naturally, I said yes to the offer; it was a nice way to learn about this lovely variety.

Grenache - or Garnacha - as it is known in Spain - is a variety that delivers wines with moderate tannins, good acidity and often a nice assemblage of brown and red spices. It's not the big, super ripe style of red you might be used to from Cabernet Sauvignon or a Shiraz from Australia, so prepare for that. Wines made from this grape tend to be subdued with a nice earthiness that makes them wonderful partners for stews, lighter games, certain preparations of duck and other similar dishes.

The majority of plantings of Grenache is in Spain (Garnacha Tinta is the official name here) and the version I tasted was the 2010 offering called The Show from Calatayud in the northeastern sector of the country. Bright crimson in color, this has inviting aromas of raspberry, clove, mulberry and nutmeg - there's a group of aromatics you won't find in most red wines!. Medium bodied, this has tart acidity, modest tannins and good persistence, while the finish has a pleasing subtle spiciness. While I'd like a bit more punch at the end, a bit of food, such as a pork chop or meat stew will help complete this wine. Also I can't criticize a wine as well made as this for $13. This is a delighful version of Grenache and it certainly offers a lot of character for the money (especially when compared with most examples of Malbec at the same price).

The second Grenache I tried was the 2010 Shatter from the France's Roussillon area in far southern France. This wine is a collaboration between California winemakers Joel Gott and Dave Phinney. It's medium-full with intriguing aromas of cooked meat, myrtle, plum and Queen Anne cherry; this has slightly richer tannins along with more obvious oak. This nicely displays the sensual, earthy side of Grenache; it's also a bit bold and has a bit too much oak influence. This can be enjoyed now, but it will be better in 3-5 years. It's priced at $30 and while the price is not extravagant, I'd would have liked to see this come in some $5-$7 less, which would make this wine more appealing to a lot more people.

Finally there is the 2010 Joel Gott "Alakai" from California. Gott has been producing wines under his own label since 1996 and has a nice array of products, ranging from Pinot Gris to Pinot Noir to Riesling from Washington State. This wine is a Rhone blend with Grenache representing 77% of the blend, while varieties such as Syrah, Mourvedre and Petite Sirah make up the remainder of the mix. Bright ruby red, this has lovely aromas of red raspberry, vanilla and a hint of bacon fat. Medium-full, this is nicely structured with very good depth of fruit, good acidity and notable complexity. This is a nicely balanced wine to enjoy over the next 5-7 years; this would be excellent paired with duck breast or many bistro dishes. ($30)

Fall is here and cold weather is coming, so why not try Grenache for something different with the heartier meals you'll be enjoying?

These wines are represented by Trinchero Family Estates of St. Helena, CA.

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