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Grenache ~ Garnacha

You might recall, when white zinfandel swept the market a few decades ago, producers came up with other pink concoctions hoping to cash in on the craze. White grenache was one of them. Ironically, white grenache had some oomph where white zinfandel did not. Because white grenache did not fit the profile of what most white zinfandel drinkers sought, it was a bust in the domestic pink wine market and went away.

For many, that was the first time they had ever heard of grenache, and it may have been the last. Ironically, grenache noir was, and still is, one of the most widely planted red grapes in the world. It excels in many roles, but usually without much recognition. Its celebrity exists in those regions where the wine is named after the village, rather than the grape. If you've dabbled in red wine from Europe, you've probably had plenty of grenache.

It is the secondary grape of Rioja, Spain. In fact Spain has more land devoted to garnacha -the Spanish name for grenache, than any other grape. It is significant in Spain's up and coming regions of Ribera del Duero and Priorato as well.

Grenache plays a major role in the Southern Rhône Valley of France. It is used to produce the most exulted wine from that area, Châeauneuf du Pape. On the other hand it is the main grape for many inexpensive Côtes du Rhônes and Côtes du Ventouxs. Although they have over twelve official red varieties to choose from, many Rhône producers blend a trilogy of grenache, syrah, and mourvédre.

This trilogy is also a favorite with the Aussies, who love to mimic French blends. Of course everyone knows about Australian shiraz, a.k.a. syrah, but grenache and mourvédre have taken a bit of the market share downunder too.

Grenache is a hardy grape whose wines can range from regal to table. Most of the time it is blended, but when given the right opportunity, it is amazing solo. Versions grown in warmer climates are full bodied and packed with ripe red fruit. In areas where it enjoys a longer growing season, grenache is smoky and complex, with notes of licorice, black raspberries, tomatoes, and herbs. It is low in tannins and acidity, but high in alcohol. It works well in a supporting role, to grapes like syrah and tempranillo.

Although France has dominated the market when it comes to tasty expressions of grenache, Spain is beginning to offer some delightful examples of this prevalent grape as well. Examples of Spanish garnacha, just like their French cousins, can be found in the everyday price range, as well as collectable versions. Look to these great bottles of grenache-garnacha in the Colorado market:

Vina Borja $8
Trevor Jones Boots $14
Le Paradou Cotes du Luberon $12
Chateau Pesquie Les Terrasses $10
Domaine La Garrigue Vacqueyras $20
Domain Janasse Chateauneuf-du-Pape $40
Bodegas Marco Real Garnacha $11
Capçanes Mas Donis $15
Capçanes Coster del Gravet $25
Capçanes Cabrida $30

Articles are property of Brenda Francis and are not to be reproduced in any way without written consent from Brenda Francis.