Peter Ranscombe indulges his passion for grenache by looking beyond exciting examples in Australia, France, South Africa and Spain.
GRENACHE has helped to put Australia’s McLaren Vale on the map – a grape often seen only in blends in Rioja and the Rhone has become the star of the show and elevated to cult status.
Tasting my way through McLaren’s offerings was one of the highlights of last autumn’s adventure down under.
Yet there’s plenty of great grenache being produced beyond the vale too.
Drive north from McLaren Vale and on the other side of Adelaide you’ll find the Barossa Valley, a region best-known for its shiraz, but now also producing lots of exciting wines from its Rhone stablemate, like the 2018 Yalumba Samuel’s Collection Barossa Bush Vine Grenache (£14.99, Australian Wines Online), part of a range named after the family-run firm’s founder, Samuel Smith, a British brewer who planted his first vineyard in 1849.
It’s superb value, with fresh acidity to balance its rounded body and stop it from becoming gloopy, with plenty of concentrated raspberry jam, redcurrant jelly and spun sugar flavours.
Australia isn’t the only game in town when it comes to New World grenache either.
Hop across the Indian Ocean to South Africa and you’ll find impressive expressions like the 2018 David & Nadia Grenache (equivalent to £20, Justerini & Brooks).
It’s made in a much fresher style, with crunchy raspberry and strawberry aromas and tangy redcurrant and cranberry flavours sitting alongside its crisp acidity; although it’s delicious now, it’s just a baby, and it would be fascinating to see how it will evolve after a few years in the bottle.
New takes in the Old World
Back in Europe, grenache swaps its name for “garnacha” in Spain – and “garnatxa” in Catalunya – and is used to produce the 2014 Secastilla Old Vine Garnacha (£27.95, Cellar Door Wines), a big grown-up version of the grape.
Lots of wood smoke, coffee and a twist of sweet mint on the nose, with classic roast and smoked meat notes joining the raspberry on the palate, alongside chewy tannins destined to slither through steak.
Hopping across the border into the Languedoc in South-West France and we meet wife-and-husband team Stephanie & Olivier Rame, who make their 2019 Maison Ventenac Le Paria (£17, Winebuyers.com) from old grenache vines.
It matches Yalumba’s grenache in terms of its mix of sweet raspberry jam and bright redcurrant jelly, yet there’s a clarity and intensity to the fruit flavours that comes from their organic farming – a very impressive wine, especially around this price point.
Staying in the Languedoc, we then come across The Grape & The Grain favourite Katie Jones, a British winemaker who also calls the region home.
Her 2017 Domaine Jones Grenache Noir (£16.99, The Oxford Wine Company) has sweetness and warmth on its nose, with darker blackcurrant fruit pastille, herbal and warm earth notes; there’s enough grip to the tannins to handle steak too, but plenty of mouth-filling fruit for balance.
Jones’s other grenache is a bit different – it’s lledoner pelut, or “hairy leaf grenache”, a rot-resistant variant.
On the nose, her 2018 Along Came Jones Hairy Leaf Grenache (£17.99, Flagship Wines) is really pronounced, with classic raspberry aromas and some of those sweeter raspberry jam notes, before breaking out into a mix of fresher strawberry and raspberry and sweeter red cherry, encased in lively acidity.
Read more of Peter Ranscombe’s wine, whisky, gin and beer reviews in his drinks blog, The Grape & The Grain.