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January Wine Focus: Grenache and Garnacha!

by Robin Garr » Wed Jan 01, 2020 8:10 am

After a month celebrating the majesty that is Burgundy, let's turn to something a little more downscale yet delicious in its own right: Grenache and Garnacha! The primary grape across much of Southern France and swaths of Spain but also cultivated in other wine regions around the world from Australia to California and beyond, Grenache is typically raspberry-scented, often slurpable, and at its best - as a key player in the Chateauneuf-du-Pape blend, for example - can make a serious wine indeed. So pull your corks, drive the cold winter away with a glass of this sunny potion, and tell us about your experience.
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Re: January Wine Focus: Grenache and Garnacha!

by David M. Bueker » Wed Jan 01, 2020 10:48 am

Time for a little bit of cellar excavation. Not much varietal Grenache in stock, but plenty of Châteauneuf is accessible.
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Re: January Wine Focus: Grenache and Garnacha!

by Tim York » Wed Jan 01, 2020 12:14 pm

It's little known outside and even inside France that excellent fortified port style wines are made from Grenache in Roussillon (known as VDN = Vin Doux Naturel). There are both vintage and tawny styles and several variants. They are excellent pairings with chocolate desserts but like port can also be very good with blue chesses.This one is tawny style, rosé in colour and comes from Grenache blanc & gris together with Macabeu.

1979 Marc Parcé Rivesaltes Ambré Vin Doux Naturel élevé 39 ans en barriques - France, Languedoc Roussillon, Roussillon, Rivesaltes (12/29/2019)
Like all the c. 30 year old vintage dated Rivesaltes from this source, this bottle is superb showing light pink colour with an amber streak, ethereal bouquet, medium- body, linear shape on the palate showing a complex medley of rasperberry tinged fruit with overtones of nuts and raisins and a gently rich and burnished undertow and backbone. It was gastronomically versatile with the Stilton bringing out richness and the desserts juicy acidity. Even better and deeper three days after opening. Excellent.
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Re: January Wine Focus: Grenache and Garnacha!

by Bob Parsons Alberta » Wed Jan 01, 2020 10:23 pm

Looking forward to your insights this month Tim. Tahbilk Marsanne and d`Arenberg Custodian Grenache always feature in my Christmas drinking up here in N AB. I di not take any notes last week but here is my impression of the 2013 we opened last year.

2013 d"Arenberg Grenache The Custodian, McLaren Vale.

Cellared 2 yrs, SC, $28 Cdn, 14.5% alc. Still has a nice rich looking color. Spicy blueberry on the nose with hints of plum and oak. Initial entry is soft tannins, big and fruity. we seem to enjoy all wines from this winery, especially the whites. Long length, medium bodied plus, brambleberry blueberry.
"Blackcurrant" from across the table, high acidity some pepper. Plenty going on here but wonder what 2 more yrs would do?

***should be a good month for me as I have some nice Grenache-based CdR in the cellar......!!
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Re: January Wine Focus: Grenache and Garnacha!

by Tim York » Thu Jan 02, 2020 6:20 am

We nearly always drink Châteauneuf du Pape with a rich stew on New Year's day. This year it was the Janasse Vieilles Vignes 2000. I have sometimes found 2000s opulent to the extent of cloying but this one was just right for me as was a Clos des Papes a few days earlier. The Janasse estate is planted with 70% Grenache but the IdealWine auction site suggests that in some cuvées the proportion is as high as 90%. I give two TNs as yesterday's refers back to a previous.

2000 Domaine de la Janasse Châteauneuf-du-Pape Vieilles Vignes - France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape (1/1/2020)
Perhaps slightly less opulent than last January's bottle but showing more tangy backbone. It was an excellent pairing for a stew of wild boar in a mushroom, red currant and kriek beer sauce. Very good.

2000 Domaine de la Janasse Châteauneuf-du-Pape Vieilles Vignes - France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape (1/22/2019)
A rich opulent CndP full of mature dark berry fruit but enlivened in a seamless way by discreet balsamic touches, a sprinkling of spice, decent acidity and a quite long and firm finish. At its peak, I guess. Very good.
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And here for good measure is my TN of the Clos des Papes (Grenache 50%, Mourvèdre 35%, etc.) -

2000 Clos des Papes Châteauneuf-du-Pape - France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape (12/21/2019)
A lovely CndP, even better than the bottle three years ago. This is not in a blockbusting vein or over opulent like many 2000s. Colour has become paler, the nose has opened up and the palate is harmoniously medium+ bodied with quasi-Burgundian fruit in a rather sweeter vein, balsamic hints, a touch of game, fresh acidity and some kirsch in the adequately firm and long finish. Excellent.
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Re: January Wine Focus: Grenache and Garnacha!

by Peter May » Thu Jan 02, 2020 8:21 am

One of Jo's favourite grapes...

One of the sponsors of the American Wine Society Conference in November was the organisation set up to promote European Garnacha-Grenache and their programme manager Sofia Gonzalez Martinez gave a master class tasting on the variety as well as supplying plenty of wines at one of the lunches.

Sofia gave me a bottle to take home so I must open it this month..

The website has information about the variety, among other things a map showing worldwide plantings.
97.05% Europe & North Africa
1.46% North America
0.89% Australia
0.12% South Africa

also there's an article by Hoke Harden (of this parish) about a tasting he presented in Oregon

https://garnachagrenache.com
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WTN - Particular Old Vine Garnacha 2015

by Peter May » Sat Jan 04, 2020 8:17 am

2015 Bodegas San Valero Garnacha 'Particular' Old Vine (Spain, Aragón, Cariñena)

I was given this at the American Wine Society National Conference in November where it was one of the Garnacha/Grenache wines on the lunch table supplied by sponsors.

I brought it home and opened it on day before yesterday, spurred by this thread.

Powerful perfume of violets(?) on nose, bright red cherries on palate with some dark chocolate in the background. Jo found oak, but I didn't. Delightful drinkable wine. Seemed stronger than the 14%abv shown on label.

The winery website says of it
It belongs to the Particular collection, a limited production that pays tribute to winegrowers’ ancestral traditions.
It is made with the queen of our vineyards, the Garnacha from our old vines coming from a unique terroir characterized by its stony soil and the extreme climatological conditions in which vineyards grow. As a result, these vineyards give bunches of smaller, concentrated, intense and aromatic grapes. It is a powerful, tasty and complex wine that will surprise the most exigent palates.
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Re: January Wine Focus: Grenache and Garnacha!

by David M. Bueker » Sat Jan 04, 2020 11:14 am

2000 Domaine du Pégau Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Réservée - France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape (1/3/2020)
2000 Pegau continues a wandering journey that exposes different aspects depending on which bottle I open. This bottle was not ready to go when I opened it (unlike my last two years ago), but over the course of three hours it blossomed into a perfumed yet still fruity gem that hinted of greater pleasures to come. Starting out tight, and focused on crunchy red fruit, the leathery, herbal, and earthy elements took nearly two hours to come out. The last glass, consumed at the three hour mark, had everything together, and made me regret not decanting. No need to hurry with this. It has a long road ahead.
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Re: January Wine Focus: Grenache and Garnacha!

by David M. Bueker » Wed Jan 08, 2020 8:37 pm

Only 55% Grenache, but what the heck...

2013 Bonny Doon Vineyard Le Cigare Volant - USA, California (1/8/2020)
$9 for a half bottle in a recent Bonny Doon sale, and worth every penny plus more. Fresh red fruit, a little spice, earthy/leathery tones make it very much an even more fruit forward, California take on a classic Chateauneuf blend. Under screw cap, this could develop very well over time.
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Re: January Wine Focus: Grenache and Garnacha!

by Tim York » Sat Jan 11, 2020 7:34 am

Conventional wisdom in France is that Grenache is too oxidative and lacking in acidity to be sold in mono-varietal cuvées. Except probably for Peter's Garnacha, I think all the TNs so far are for Grenache in blends. This extract from Wikipedia encapsulates that thinking -

Grenache wines are highly prone to oxidation, with even young examples having the potential to show browning (or "bricking") coloration that can be noticed around the rim when evaluating the wine at an angle in the glass. As Grenache ages the wines tend to take on more leather and tar flavors.[2] Wines made from Grenache tend to lack acid, tannin and color, and it is often blended with other varieties such as Syrah, Carignan, Tempranillo, and Cinsault.

Sweet fortified wines made from Grenache in Roussillon are usually not blended with other varieties because in these the oxidative character of the grape is not a disadvantage. In dry table wines too, there are some famous examples of wines from unblended Grenache reds. The best in my experience were -

Château Rayas 2000 which in about 2007 outshone other CndPs in a horizontal line-up with its wonderful quasi-Burgundian character in a slightly sweeter and spicier vein. The only CndP which IMO justifies its reputation as one of the world's great wines.

Clos des Fées Petite Sibérie from Roussillon was very impressive young at tastings but needed more time for full expression. But at a price of €200 I was not tempted to find out how it evolved.

La Multa Garnacha Calatayud Old Vine 2012 was deliciously fruity in 2017.

But Bodegas Borsao Garnacha Campo de Borja Tres Picos 2012 was in 2014 a strong candidate for my worst wine of the decade. Not the fault of the grapes, I think, but of highly interventionist winemaking designed to please Robert Parker and his followers.

I was not expecting to put my hand on an unblended Grenache red this month, so when I saw this example from a usually reliable producer on offer at a low price I stretched out for it. Definitely not a great wine but a pleasing quaffer not yet showing any signs of oxidation.

2017 Vignobles Lorgeril Vin de Pays d'Oc Bastion de Garille Grenache - France, Languedoc Roussillon, Vin de Pays d'Oc (1/11/2020)
Medium/light in body with pleasant slightly sweet fruit, soft texture, decent acidity and light grip on the finish. It benefits IMO from being served close to cellar temperature and went well with a mushroom filled pizza. Quite good and may merit repurchase for summer quaffing at its modest price of c.€4.
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Re: January Wine Focus: Grenache and Garnacha!

by David M. Bueker » Sat Jan 11, 2020 9:46 am

Rayas...sigh.
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Re: January Wine Focus: Grenache and Garnacha!

by Andrew H » Sun Jan 12, 2020 9:46 am

Hi - I'm Andrew, new to this forum and working as a consultant winemaker in Spain.

Grenache (known as Garnacha or Garnatxa) has certainly undergone a revolution in Spain over the last 15-20 years or so, as the country has re-evaulated its viticultural heritage. There's a lot of it and it can generally handle hot, dry growing conditions.

I agree that the colour can "brick" but I think it can definitely be presented as a stand-alone varietal. Certainly the ones we pull out of barrel after a year (in Terra Alta) are not oxidised. The low pHs common to our area no doubt help with this.

To generalise a lot, I'd say the main styles break down like this:

a) Lower areas in NE Spain, such as eastern Rioja and Montsant - juicy, ripe gluggable blenders - blend well with the slightly more serious Temrpanillos from northern and western Rioja or stand alone or blended with French varietals in Montsant. Basically friendly unambitious wines that are easy to like and easy to blend.

b) Higher areas of NE Spain with continental climate, such as Campo de Borja, Calatayud - Quite dark concentrated styles, often very ripe and powerful. Popular still, especially in export markets but a bit anachronistic for today's critics.

c) Lighter styles. The newish thing is hands-off, low extraction wines, celebrating Grenache's light colour and going for lower alcohols, "Mediterranean Pinot Noir". This approach probably most common in these three areas, producing different results in each (1) North central Navarra, cool damp Atlantic climate, on the limit of getting things ripe, bright and high acid (2) SE Rioja at high altitude - fine wines with a sense of place, challenging Tempranillo's pre-eminence, (3) - Sierra de Gredos area in Central Spain (west of Madrid) - quite light / natural / reductive wines which are very trendy but aren't going to please everyone. All these areas are still work in progress.
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Re: January Wine Focus: Grenache and Garnacha!

by Bob Parsons Alberta » Sun Jan 12, 2020 11:34 am

Nice post, always keep an eye open for Navarra.
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Re: January Wine Focus: Grenache and Garnacha!

by Robin Garr » Sun Jan 12, 2020 2:02 pm

Thanks for the detailed report, Andrew, and a warm welcome to the forum!
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Re: January Wine Focus: Grenache and Garnacha!

by Tim York » Mon Jan 13, 2020 7:36 am

Andrew, let me add my welcome to this site and thanks for your report which certainly contributes a lot to my understanding of what Spain is doing with Garnacha.

Can you provide some comment on how the mono-varietal Garnacha cuvées are coping with longer term ageing, i.e. 10+ years?

In France, Château Rayas has an established track record for long term ageing as, of course, do the sweet fortified reds in an oxidative style from Rivesaltes, Maury and Banyuls. I guess that Petite Sibérie too may age well. However, there may be terroir and winemaking explanations in these cases which do not invalidate the need for a good dose of Mourvèdre and Syrah in most other Grenache based cuvées.
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Re: January Wine Focus: Grenache and Garnacha!

by Andrew H » Mon Jan 13, 2020 10:24 am

Hi Tim, thank you for your welcome. Nice to meet yo.

How long mono-varietal Spanish Grenaches might age is a good question. Of course ageing depends on one's point of view and preferences, but again to generalise:

I think that the "friendly" styles as mentioned in my (a) are not designed to age and if you can find 100% Grenaches amongst them they are probably at their best at 2-5 years and will be quite a long way downhill by 7.

The big styles as mentioned in my (b) might age but I don't think there's much point. If you look at a very commercial full-throttle wine like Ateca / Atteca Crianza it's really all about super-ripe sweet fruit, dark colours and oak. Quite Parkerised and drinkable immediately. It might hold up a while but I can't see it getting any better. If you look at a really excellent wine such as Las Terrazas del Moncayo from the Campo de Borja region - it's not quite so much a parody as the Atteca, but its charms are still all about gorgeous floral nose and lush soft fruit - again I'm not sure there'd be much to point age it, certainly not 10yrs+

So to the hands-off edgier styles, my (c) - I'd guess the Atlantic Navarran wines would age well, they are a bit hard early on but usually have decentish colour and good acidity and moderate alcohols. Arguably the most "French" of the bunch. Probably at their best 5-12 years, likey to develop some interesting characteristics as they mellow. The "new" single-vineyard Riojan Grenaches from the Sierra de Yerga area are possibly the most exciting. To be honest I've tried very few and it's unknown territory how long they would age. But my impression is that they are serious wines with good acidity but not too OTT nor too thin. Potentially good agers, to answer your question I think you might want to look here for something in the 8-15 years bracket. Lastly to the Sierra de Gredos, I think these wines are a bit hard and unapproachable when young, but don't have much meat on their bones. Will probably develop favourably but I'm guessing at their best around 5-7 years. Just not really my favourite style.
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Re: January Wine Focus: Grenache and Garnacha!

by David M. Bueker » Mon Jan 13, 2020 12:51 pm

Hi Andrew - welcome aboard, and thanks for bringing some really interesting points to the discussion.

Regarding "style c" in your post, does that include any efforts at "natural wine" or things like it? Just curious (no judgement one way or another), as I have not heard much of anything about natural wine in Spain.
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Re: January Wine Focus: Grenache and Garnacha!

by Andrew H » Mon Jan 13, 2020 1:16 pm

Hi David,

There is a fair bit of natural wine in Spain, though I'd say not as much as France. The thing with Spain is for a similar sized producer there are much fewer cellars, so of course some of the cellars are quite big and these are unlikely to want to run too many risks.

Here many (though not all) of the vineyard ares are quite dry and may be quite cold in winter. So pests and problems are not too high, so it is reasonably easy to be organic or lowish intervention in the vineyard in a number of cases, especially if it's a smallish holding yo can look after yourself. There is also quite a tradition of artesanal winemaking, in most wine areas, somebody's uncle or grandad can be relied upon to make a few hundred litres for local consumption, often with no adds.

Given this background and current trends, a number of pure natural winemaking outfits have surfaced in the last 10-15 years but there are also a number who are low / no adds depending on the year and these may bottle with or without adding SO2. A number of well-respected producers who do work naturally shy away from the term, because they don't want to be associated with the more extreme wine styles that this term can sometime evoke. Certainly low / no intervention winemakers are finding their feet and there are a number of great options to try, whether they call themselves "natural" or not. To answer your question, yes, more likely to be found within my (c) than in the other options, as these are new wines that haven't been around long and are generally made by passionate idealists. My (b) would have too high potential alcohols not to add yeast and are often exported so SO2 used, my (a) are traditional wines that have been around a while and so to generalise are less likely to work "naturally".
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Re: January Wine Focus: Grenache and Garnacha!

by David M. Bueker » Mon Jan 13, 2020 5:32 pm

Thanks. Good explanation.
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Re: January Wine Focus: Grenache and Garnacha!

by Peter May » Tue Jan 14, 2020 12:32 pm

Hi Andrew, a (belated) welcome to the forum.

Many thanks for sharing your knowledge and experience with Garnacha.

This thread has inspired me to present Garnacha/Grenache at my next U3A wine group tasting, and to that end I have been assembling a list of white, pink and red Garnacha/Grenache wines from Spain, France and Australia. All but one is a 100% varietal so far.

I shall print out Andrew's comments ready for the tasting.
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Re: January Wine Focus: Grenache and Garnacha!

by Peter May » Tue Jan 14, 2020 3:56 pm

Tonight

2017 Domaine Laborie Vin de Pays d'Oc (France, Languedoc Roussillon, Vin de Pays d'Oc)

which was said to be a Grenache dominated blend when I bought it, but the back label says it is a blend of Carignan, Grenache with a "touch of Merlot". 12.5% abv, bottled by producer in a screwcap.

Made by the co-operative Les Producteurs Réunis de Cébazan who don't appear to have a website, I don't know the exact cepage of this wine, but it is cheap at £5.50 - discounted as a bin end from £5.95 - (or do I mean inexpensive?) and over delivers at the price. Soft and fruity, with a hit of bright fruity spice that I reckon comes from the Grenache. Not one to over think, but to quaff.

Enjoyed with ratatouille.
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Re: January Wine Focus: Grenache and Garnacha!

by ChaimShraga » Thu Jan 16, 2020 10:21 am

Domaine Hauvete, Baux-de-Provence. Cornlaine, 2013

The background story is an interesting one, although not very uncommon. Well, not uncommon in the Kermit Lynch portfolio. In the early 1980s Dominique Hauvette left her lawyer job in the Savoie and came to Provence in search of more sunshine, eventually taking up, first winemaking, then biodynamics. Almost four decades later, she's making cult-status wines, doesn't have an email, Facebook or Instagram account and hardly picks up the phone. The local importer had to struggle for five years to get an allocation. The blend is 50% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and is a sort of Côte Rôtie meets the Loire, combining Côte Rôtie texture and telltale signature of bacon with damp earth, sweet (but not overripe) fruit and integrated tannins. Still a youngster, it impresses for its harmony and depth right now, rather than complexity.
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Re: January Wine Focus: Grenache and Garnacha!

by David M. Bueker » Thu Jan 16, 2020 11:40 am

Chaim - you nearly killed me with the 1980s being 4 decades ago. :cry:
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Re: January Wine Focus: Grenache and Garnacha!

by Tim York » Sat Jan 18, 2020 10:13 am

I drink quite a few Grenache blends from S.Rhône, Languedoc and Roussillon including two in the last week or so. The Faugères was a blend of about 40% Grenache with Cinsault, Carignan and Syrah and the Roussillon Pur Schiste was a similar blend minus Cinsault. I think that in both cases the fruit was probably less sweet than in a 100% Grenache cuvée from the same places but with more herbal and mineral complexity, colour and backbone.

2017 Domaine Valambelle Faugères Millepeyres - France, Languedoc Roussillon, Languedoc, Faugères (10/15/2019)
Although this estate does not get a mention in two leading French annual guides, I always find this Millepeyres a reliable bottling. It is robustly medium++ bodied with darkish fruit, herbal and anise notes, decent acidity and a nicely firm finish. This still has a certain youthful roughness but this does not hinder enjoyment. Good.

PS on bottle of 1/16/2020 - the youthful roughness is disappearing.


2018 Mas Amiel Côtes du Roussillon Pur Schiste - France, Languedoc Roussillon, Roussillon, Côtes du Roussillon (1/13/2020)
I can write much the same about this 2018 as I wrote about the 2016 at a similar age, namely "deep coloured, medium/full bodied, full of berry fruit laced with orange peel and with more minerals and livelier acidity than common at this latitude together with decent structure". My experience with previous vintages is that complexity develops over a 2-3 year time span. Good.
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I just missed :( a 100% Grenache "La Création" briefly on offer on the 1Jour1Vin website. It was from Raymond Usseglio, a CndP producer (but without AOP - Vin de France only), priced at c.€20, matured in clay amphorae and scoring 96 Parker points!!!
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