December Wine Blog : Like Pinot? Choose Grenache.

Old vines Grenache @ Joan D’Anguera
Photo credit: Shebnem Ince

I taste a lot of wine. Its part of the job; sifting through countless bottles, looking for the real stand-outs, the ones that make me pause, consider, maybe even smile. Wine is one of life’s little pleasures; to that even I am not immune.
Pinot Noir, everyone’s darling grape, happens to have one of the worst track records, in my estimation. I worry every time a sales rep pulls one from their bag- it might be great, I hope that it will be, but ultimately, the odds of it being uninspiring are pretty high.
Pinot is a fickle grape, a thin-skinned, high-maintenance thing, prone to all sorts of problems, particularly mildew. It is difficult to grow, and commands the kinds of climatic consistencies that mother nature is unable to provide. It is widely planted because of consumer demand, yet not suited to grow in many of the places in which it is planted. 
I am not advocating the cessation of Pinot drinking. But, there is another thin-skinned grape, capable of fruity, silky, generosity that happens to be a little less picky about where it grows. Meet your new best friend, Grenache.
Grenache is an ancient grape that most likely began its existence on the Italian island of Sardegna, where it is called Cannonau. The vine then made its way through Spain starting in the early 1300s.
Grenache thrives in warm, Mediterranean climates like the Southern Rhone Valley, Languedoc-Roussillon & most of Spain. It is allowed in the D.O.C.a of both Priorato and Rioja.
In the under $20 range, I would almost always prefer a high quality Cotes du Rhone (which will almost always contain a big chunk of Grenache) over any Pinot Noir at that price. Good producers include Domaine Roche Audran (their ‘Cesar’ bottling is 100 % old vines Grenache) and Domaine Beaurenard, who work organically. 2009 is a beautiful vintage for both producers.
Spanish Grenache (it is called Garnacha there) I love include Joan D’Anguera’s Garnaxta Monsant, and Acustic Celllers Broa (50% Garnacha, 50% Samsao, or Carignan), also from Monsant.
Lastly, Jaffurs Winery produces an incredible, chock-full-of-raspberry-pie beauty of a Grenache in Santa Barbara County, CA.
All these wines are available upon request from Craig Perman at Perman Wines, 802 W. Washington (at Halsted), Chicago, IL 60607. 312-666-4417

Shebnem Ince
Wine Director
The Gage
24 S Michigan
Chicago, IL 60603
18 S.Michigan
Chicago, IL 60603
(312) 578-0763

Food & Wine Magazine Top Sommelier 2011


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