Oh, grenache, how do I love thee? Let me recount the ways:
• Thou art the lead character in several stupendous bottlings from Châteauneuf-du-Pape (CDP), some of the world’s most profound and complex red blends, as well as everyday bottlings from throughout the Rhône Valley.
• Thou taketh an even larger role — as “garnacha” — in spendy world-class reds from Priorat and simpler (but hardly simple) delights from the rest of Spain.
• Thou provideth the base for many of the very best rosés in the world, especially from Provence.
• Thou mighteth be the foremost blending grape in the world, as noted above and in many iterations with syrah and mourvedre — and there’s a reason the “G” comes first in these GSMs.
• Thou canst be served with all manner of food, thanks to perky fruit flavors and juicy acidity.
• Thou hath a supremely bright future, being so suitable for dry farming in an era of climate change and deeper droughts.
Now, this is no fleeting romance, as I have been smitten with grenache since luxuriating in an early aha wine moment with the 1989 Beaucastel CDP. Enhancing the seduction: deep-seated pleasures elicited from Spain’s Clos Mogador and Finca Dofi, along with exhilarating encounters with rosés from the south of France.
Then, this year I joined some fellow wine writers in Sonoma at an event dubbed the Judgment of Geyserville, with five people bringing three grenaches apiece from British Columbia, Washington/Idaho, Oregon, California and Australia.
Almost all of them showed depth, complexity and harmony. We learned after the tasting that our favorites — and it was a close call — came from a British Columbia winery called Stag’s Hollow, which, alas, is not available in the U.S.
But the fact that such penetrating, alluring wines can spring from the soils of B.C. and Idaho speaks volumes (and makes me gung-ho about visiting those regions).
One of the wines that showed well at the Judgment of Geyserville came from A Tribute to Grace, which is available in the Twin Cities at stores such as Sunfish Cellars and Henry and Son, as well as Spoon and Stable restaurant in Minneapolis. Lovers of the more delicate pinot noirs should seek these out.
But there are all manner of options on local shelves. A great introduction would be the Côtes du Rhône red blends from E. Guigal, M. Chapoutier, La Vieille Ferme, J.L. Chave and Les Dauphins. Bringing more ripeness and weight to the proceedings are Spanish offerings from Atteca, Evodia, Lechuza, Clos Dalian, Monte Oton and Zestos. All of these wines, by the way, can be found for under $15, sometimes under $10.
On the other side of the world, I love grenache’s potential to help resuscitate Australia’s reputation, embodied in seriously tasty varietals from Yalumba and Schild, plus GSMs from d’Arenberg and Robert Oatley.
We would run out of newsprint if I listed every Châteauneuf-du-Pape that I have loved, so I’ll stick to some of the great ones that are under $100, even though those that top that mark usually are worth the tab: Pierre Usseglio, Andre Brunel, Vieux Donjon, Vieux Télégraphe and Domaine du Pégaü.
Just as splendiferous in their own way are the rosés from nearby Provence, packed with cherry/berry aromas and flavors. Most are 100 percent or at least predominantly grenache, and two worth a $20-plus splurge are Miraval and Whispering Angel, each a slice of pure vinous heaven.
There are plenty of less expensive options in this hotter-than-hot category (North Loop owner Lisa Impagliazzo recently told me she’s having real trouble keeping her rosé shelves stocked).
And while most rosés these days are tasty and vibrant, a sure path to bliss is to tell your local winemonger, “make more grenache.”
Bill Ward writes atdecant-this.com. Follow him on Twitter: @billward4.