Two weeks ago, Friday September 18th to be exact, was International Grenache Day. How do I know this? I came across a handy international wine celebration calendar. This amazing calendar lists a day to celebrate a different wine varietal just about every other week. I figured if you used this wine calendar as a guide, you could study and taste test a varietal for up to two weeks (until the next wine’s celebration day kicks in), and you’d quickly become quite a connoisseur in short order. So, better late than never—let’s start with Grenache!
You might well want to take a week or more to study Grenache, because there’s a lot to know. For starters, Grenache isn’t always red. The most well known Grenache (Grenache Noir) is a hardy red grape varietal that thrives in hot, dry climates like Spain, likely it’s place of origin. It also grows extensively in southern France, Sardinia and even warmer California wine regions. It is found as a stand-alone varietal, but is also widely blended because of its low tannins, low acidity, and high alcohol content. Grenache Noir is actually part of the very famous Châteauneuf-du-Pape appellation in the Rhône region of southeastern France.
There are two other Grenache cousins, offshoots, or mutations if you will: Grenache Blanc, and Grenache Gris. Both are similar to red Grenache in that they are drought resistant and prefer hotter temperatures, and are high in alcohol. The Grenache Blanc is widely grown in the Rhône area and northeast Spain. It, too, is widely blended, particularly with Roussanne.
Grenache Gris is the least known of the three Grenaches. Mostly, this grape, with its dusky pink-purple skin, is used as a blend in rosé. I found little about the taste of a stand-alone Grenache Gris wine, except for this description on Hawk Wakawaka Wine Reviews:
“Drawing from 100+ year old, dry farmed vines in Mendocino, Two Shepherds (Ed: a small lot winemaker) delivers a pink-red fruit-and-floral spiced example of the uncommon variety. The wine offers delicate (without weakness) flavor complexity with a slippery mouthfeel and crunchy, lightly drying finish. The focus here is on clean fruit expression and juiciness with integrated natural fruit spice.”
Another nice observation about Grenache — all Grenache varietals, really— is that they combine well with almost every type of food. From hearty, spicy Spanish fare, to fish, veggies and French cuisine, I encourage you to get several Grenache wines and play around with them a bit. See what combinations sing to you.
The next wine celebration day is November 7, International Merlot Day. I’m sure there will be something wonderful to celebrate about that, as well!