I am not sure who makes up these days, but I love them.
Who doesn’t want to speak like Keith Richards and Johnny Depp, especially with his two dogs Pistol and Boo. I am sure Barnaby Joyce will be toasting Johnny with a glass of Grenache on this day, for the “great” publicity (or infamy) he received around the world for his ridiculous behaviour. You know things are bad when Kyle Sandilas can stand on the moral high ground and call you a “Buffoon”. But why Grenache I hear you ask; well it is also International Grenache Day on the 19th of September.
Grenache is a sometimes undervalued grape variety. It is rarely seen by itself and is often ignored or relegated to secondary status when talk comes to quality wines. But it is responsible for some of the greatest wines of the world.
I think part of Grenache’s problem is that it is so widely planted and ubiquitous. For most of the 20th Century it was the second most planted grape variety in the world, second only behind the white grape variety of La Mancha in Spain – Airén. (Thanks to a major vine pull in Europe, a lot of very average Grenache and Airén have since been ripped out). But Grenache still accounts for large chunks of the vineyards in Spain, the Cote Du Rhone in France, Australia, California and South Africa. You can start to see why there is an International day. This grape verity is basically everywhere.
However, there are a few unique places in the world, where the soil, climate, age of the vines and the focus and attention of some pretty amazing winemakers all come together to produce some sensational wines.
For me there are really only three places where this happens. Chateauneuf-du-Pape in the Rhone Valley of France, Priorat in Northern Spain and South Australia; specifically McLaren Vale and the Barossa.
McLaren Vale and the Barossa in South Australia are home to the GSM blends, as we call them here. (GSM stands for Grenache, Shiraz, Mouvedere). These are wines paying homage to the Cote Du Rhone in France, yet stand alone for their quality and diversity.
It is strange to see single vineyard Grenache, but in the McLaren Vale the winemakers tend to do this a little more than the Barossa. D’Arenberg in particular, is a winery that excels. During their centenary celebrations in 2012 – (pretty impressive by the way) they released 12 single vineyard wines from the 2010 vintage. The idea was to showcase the different terroirs of the McLaren. There were 8 Shiraz, but more importantly 4 single vineyard Grenaches. If you ever get the chance to try these wines, make sure you try at least 2-3. You will then really get the idea of the French word terroir. Same winemaker, same winemaking, the only difference is the vineyard, which in some cases are within spitting distance of each other. Yet totally different wines!
Another producer of note is Yangarra Estate. A winery now owned by the Jackson family; a very wealthy and influential wine family from the Napa Valley. They managed to purchase a significant vineyard, planted in 1946, with a focus on Grenache and the other Rhone valley varietals.
I was lucky enough to pick up a few bottles of their high end wines and to say they are impressive is an understatement. Their 2012 Yangarra Estate High Sands Grenache is simply world class. It is not a big wine, rather it hangs it hat on a medium bodied frame; more super model than body builder. This is no wine on steroids, which is so much more enjoyable as a result. There is a real feminine nature to high end Grenache that I really enjoy. Don’t think of a Miss Universe beauty with big hair and teeth, rather quality Grenache is more high end fashionista; edgy, a little dangerous and very desirable. Too much, maybe, but I hope you get where I am heading with this. The wine had these bright red fruits, with bracing acidity and a freshness that is not overpowering, but it does seduce you.
I hate to say, but it is mostly at the high end you get these characteristics and the High Sands Grenache is pretty expensive at $110 a bottle. But what price do you place on a super model; some of them don’t get out of bed for less than $10,000.
Chateauneuf-du-pape is probably the most famous wine region outside of Bordeaux. Yet most people would be surprised to know that Grenache makes up the majority of this blend. (In most cases 30-40%). There can be up to 13 grape varieties legally used in this region, including a number of white grape varieties. Yet it is Grenache that the region depends on. These wines are expensive, with the starting price around $50, heading north very quickly, with the top wines reaching $500-$800. I am a big fan of these wines, and even the lesser villages of Lirac and even the humble Cote Du Rhone. But for high quality Grenache, you cannot go past the 2012 Chateau Beaucastel. Again an expensive wine at around $180, but in my opinion worth every cent.
Yet, the region I spend most of my money is that of Priorat in Northern Spain. These again are the wines in the mode of the Super Model. Priorat is a fascinating place, which like Chateauneuf-du-pape (CNDP) is geologically unique. CNDP with their “gallets” or pudding stones and Priorat with their Licorcella, or slate like soil that can easily break in your hand. Combine this with old vineyards, over 80 years old and incredibly steep with low yields, so it should be no surprise these wines are taking the world by storm.
It is from old vine Grenache or Granacha that the great wines of Priorat are made, generally with a large percentage of Carignan. Customers of Bullion Cellars will know we are a big fan of wines with this variety and you will be pleased to know this is the blend I am drinking as I write this blog.
The 2012 Ferrer Bobet Vineyes Velles Priorat is a blend of 70% Carignan and 30% Grenache. At 14.5% alcohol it is a big wine, but totally seamless and elegant. This is another of these Super model wines I have been talking about. It has a mineral freshness that is so precise, yet it has this decadent palate with red fruits dancing and prancing around your mouth, balanced by this incredible floral and perfumed characters. Again maybe a little too flowery and wanky, but I hope you can tell I really like this wine.
So there are a few suggestions for International Grenache day. Expensive and hard to find, but worth every cent. Don’t be swayed by the trendiness of Pinot Noir, or the in your face nature of Shiraz. Grenache is where it’s at baby!!!!!!
But unlike the super model analogy, food is a must, as these wines demand to be accompanied by your best dinner party dish.
So don’t forget to Talk like a Pirate and raise a glass of Grenache to Barnaby Joyce and Johnny Depp on the 19th.