No other grape has emerged from the shadows of more popular international varieties than grenache. Known as grenache in France and garnacha in Spain, this grape makes a great blending partner, but can stand on its own as a single variety. Grenache is grown extensively throughout world, but the best expressions are found in Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Priorat. If you haven’t tried wines from these iconic regions, please treat yourself. Even you Napa Cab lovers might be pleasantly surprised.
Châteauneuf-du-Pape is in southern Rhone, France, and is home to some of the best wines in the world. The dominant grape in this up-to-13-grape blend is grenache. Grenache provides the soft mouth feel while still packing rich red fruit and other non-fruit flavors. What also makes Châteauneuf-du-Pape so interesting and worth trying is the terroir. Vines literally grow in rocks known as galets. These rocks impart a distinct earthy and mineral quality. Pictures of these vines truly defy our Midwestern notion of fertility.
One of my favorite wine regions in the world is Priorat. Priorat is just south of Barcelona, in Catalonia, Spain. Garnacha leads the way here too, typically blended with carignan. What makes Priorat uniquely interesting is the blue slate soils. It’s truly amazing how vines can grow well in rocks. The slate absorbs heat during the day, so grapes don’t ripen too fast. This also helps keep acidity in the grapes, creating a beautifully balanced wine. Pair both of these wines with stews, or ham and grilled vegetables. Salud!
Andy Carl is a local wine expert —the Woodbury Wine Wizard—whose recommendations appear each month in this section of Woodbury Magazine.