Glorious Grenache

By on September 5th, 2022 in Blog
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Grenache is another big-hitting red variety. It’s probably most famous for being a key ingredient in ‘GSM’ wines (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre) such as Châteauneuf-du-Pape Wine, or in a supporting role to Tempranillo in Rioja. But it also shines as a single varietal wine from places like Priorat, which produces some of Spain’s most sought-after wines. And yet, like many varieties, it has attributes that make it useful for large-scale winemaking, producing inoffensive, inexpensive wines. But don’t be fooled!

glorious grenache blog

Individual grape varieties can rarely be pigeonholed solely for ‘cheap’ or even ‘expensive’ wines. It’s how you grow it, how you make it, and sometimes, how you blend it that matters. Our quartet of Grenache wines are all box office hits. Whether in a starring role, part of the supporting cast or solo, in a one-grape show, there are no doubting Grenache’s prodigious talents. 

Cal Batllet – Marc Ripoll Llum d’Alena 

100% Grenache

We open with a 100% Grenache, or Garnacha, as it’s known locally. Priorat in Catalunya stakes a claim to being the world’s preeminent Grenache-producing region. Here altitude, soil and climate contrive to make perfect conditions for this most versatile grape. Marc Ripoll returned to his family estate, Cal Batllet, just over 20 years ago and transformed it from a simple grape farming business into one of the region’s top producers. The Marc Ripoll Llum d’Alena is a tremendous example of new-style Priorat. Wines from here were once super-heavyweight, highly extracted, tannic and uncompromising. Thankfully elegance and balance are now the names of the game and this wine scores big on both counts. Loads of rich, dark and red berry flavours offset by a lovely spicy liquorice quality from the barrel fermentation. High tannins and alcohol are balanced by great acidity and a pleasing subtle earthiness. Outstanding in every way.

Cal Batllet - Marc Ripoll Llum d'Alena grenache

Terres Fidèles Felicette – Grenache Noir

100% Grenache

Now to the other end of the 100% Grenache spectrum. Terres Fidèles Felicette – Grenache Noir speaks very clearly of it’s home. Made from the same grape as its Spanish counterpart above, you’d be hard-pressed to find more differing styles. Only 200 miles apart, it’s a testament to Grenache’s versatility that both wines are so successful. The Roussillon in France is a real stronghold for the variety. It’s generally made in a light, easy-drinking style with more of the red berry flavours balancing those dark cassis notes. And this wine is no exception. Strawberry and blackcurrant headline. Super smooth, low tannins and bright refreshing acidity maintain a bright tension. With plantings that benefit from both the warm Mediterranean climate and the fresher Atlantic influence, Terres Fidèles has a best-of-both-worlds feel. Their wines are super gluggable and dangerously easy to drink. With or without food they always hit the spot. 

Terres Fidèles Felicette - Grenache Noir

Mas de Cadenet Provence Rosé

Grenache 45% Cinsault 45% Syrah 10%

Next, is a region requiring little introduction. Provence. Known for its dry, light pink wines, it’s everyone’s go-to for a crisp refreshing rosé. Mas de Cadenet has been making award-winning wines under the watchful eye of the Negrel Family for over 200 years. Their Mas de Cadenet Provence Rosé is an excellent example of all that’s great about blended Grenache rosé from this beautiful part of France. Flavours of lemon, red apple, raspberry and cranberry are balanced by a subtle hint of green bell pepper. Acidity is high and refreshing and there’s a pleasing creaminess that provides excellent texture. Like all good Provencal rosés, it’s bone dry, making it ideal for pairing with local dishes like shellfish, summer salads and a particular favourite of ours, bouillabaisse. Whispering Angel and Miraval may have big marketing budgets, but for those in the know, Mas de Cadenet is the one.

Mas de Cadenet Provence Rosé grenache

Peter Franus Wine Red Hills Lake County Red

Syrah 50% Grenache 30% Mourvèdre 20%

We’ve covered single varietal wines and a famous rosé using Grenache in a blend. Now it’s all about Grenache’s role in a famous and much loved red blend. GSM (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre) wines originated in France’s Southern Rhone Valley (think Chateauneuf-du-Pape) and, depending on several factors in both the vineyard and winery, differing ratios of these grapes produce very different results. It’s an endlessly intriguing puzzle that fascinates winemakers throughout the world. One such is Peter Franus. His Red Hills Lake County Red uses Grenache in a strong supporting role (about 30%) and the result is utterly outstanding. Like gliding down a slide of deep purple velvet into a ball-pit of forest fruit. It’s got (deep breath) black cherries and plums, toast, smoke, cassis, a little prune, blackcurrant, white pepper, balsamic, redcurrants, cigar box, soy, bresaola, cinnamon and vanilla. Tannins and acidity are almost magical. This isn’t winemaking. It’s sorcery.

Peter Franus Wine Red Hills Lake County Red