In some parts of the world Grenache is not a deeply appreciated grape variety but this is not true in Languedoc-Roussillon or the Rhône, Provence and of course the country where it hails from, Spain where it’s known as Garnacha. Luckily many people around the world are keen fans of this succulent grape and for the past few years it has been celebrated annually with ‘Grenache Day’ which this year is Friday 19th September.
Along with many grape varieties such as Pinot, Grenache comes in 3 colours; noir, blanc and gris. I am a huge fan of the gris grapes in particular, especially when used to make delicious white wines. I’ve come across quite a few white Grenache wines in recent years but it seems that for red wine it is not often the sole grape in the bottle. It takes the lead role in some famous blended wines including Châteauneuf-du-Pape but in many cases it is cast into a supporting role as in most Rioja for instance.
On some terroirs and if allowed to yield high it produces lightly coloured wines with low tannin but its hallmark is always high alcohol. Where the soils are poor and the climate tough the grapes will come out fighting producing wines with deep colour and tantalising sweet spicy aromas.
It’s one of the most versatile red grapes and stars in dry as well as sweet wines. It is content in a hot, arid landscape such as parts of Spain, Catalonia (including of course the now famous Priorat area) and the south of France especially in the Roussillon. In the latter all three colours take centre stage in wines such as the dry reds and whites of Côtes du Roussillon and Collioure and the sweet wines of Banyuls, Rivesaltes and Maury.
Grenache Noir wines can be supple, soft and juicy with flavours of red fruits, white pepper and sweet spice such as cinnamon, cloves and paprika. They are the perfect partners for warming autumn and winter dishes such as cassoulet, steak and kidney pie, spicy sausages, roasted onions and shepherd’s pie and is also a better choice than the more structured reds for cheese. The more serious styles such as a Priorat, Tautavel or a good Châteauneuf-du-Pape will match well with gamey meat and fowl. The earthiness of white Grenache works very well with paella, risotto and pork dishes and of course many styles of cheese.
Sweet Grenache wines are often superb with many styles of cheese and I particularly love a Rivesaltes Ambré, which is made using Grenache gris and blanc and often accompanied by Maccabeo. It’s fabulous with an aged Manchego and I also love it with any orange based desserts as the Seville orange character works so well. Maury, a delicious sweet red wine which hails from the village of the same name is often 100% Grenache Noir and is the wine of choice to accompany rich dark chocolate desserts but is also good with grilled figs and blue cheeses.
So are you going to raise an appropriate glass of something on Grenache Day? I certainly will be and of course it will be a Languedoc-Roussillon wine I’ll be choosing but there is so much choice! It could possibly be one of the Grenache bunch from Domaine Jones for I adore her white Grenache Gris as much as her red Grenache, it’s so juicy and generous! Or will I be tempted with a glass of my long time Languedoc favourite white which is also a Grenache based wine named L’Inattendu from Clos du Gravillas. It’s rich and interesting but mineral and refreshing all at the same time. I fell in love with this wine about 8 years ago and I’ve only found one other wine to join it on the pedestal and that’s Argile, a Collioure white from La Rectorie. Or I might reach for a bottle of Ex Arena from Domaine de Cébène, a 100% Grenache noir grown on sea sediment soils that have produced this soft, light and seductive red wine. Or maybe….. Gosh the list goes on and on!