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Hey, it's a new Wine.Woot guest blog post! Gary Gibson, Winemaker of Shadow Canyon Cellars (Paso Robles, CA), joins us to dish the real story on Europe's favorite grape, Grenache.

Grenache is one of the most widely planted grapes in the world, occupying more vineyard land in Spain than any other varietal, and one of the major grape varietals grown in France. Grenache can produce wines which range in style from light bodied roses to dense, chewy wines found in France’s Chateauneuf-du-Pape region and in Spain’s Priorat region. Used as the main blending varietal in Chateauneuf-du-Pape, as a single varietal it shines when seen in the wines of Chateau Rayas and Domaine de la Vieille Julienne.

Typically grown in warmer areas of Spain and France, it is interesting that California’s best examples are grown in relatively cooler locations, with lesser quality wines grown in the hot interior. Vineyards such as Alban, growing fruit in the cool Edna Valley, Sine Qua Non in the very cool Santa Rita hills and Saxum on the west side of Paso Robles are defining great Grenache in California. Grenache may turn out to be much like pinot noir when grown in California. Unlike syrah, which seems to do well in any climate, the better examples are being produced in the cooler coastal areas and tend to be very vineyard specific.

The Grenache grape has a thin skin, many times making thin, innocuous wines. But in the right location with controlled yields, the varietal can produce blockbuster wines. Correct viticulture practices along with low yields help balance the varietals naturally low phenolics. Correct handling of Grenache in the winery is also critical, with cold soaks combined with long slow fermentations to help extract color and flavors. With reduced yields, Grenache can develop complex wines exhibiting notes of black currants, black cherries, olives, leather, black pepper and spice.

TMy reference for great Grenache are those beautifully structured, dark, almost chewy single vineyard wines produced in Chateauneuf-du-Pape. California has produced many thin, light, innocuous examples of Grenache in the past, but they are shadows of what we are seeing from the current top tier producers. The best are making intense, full bodied wines, with solid tannins (the nature of the grape) that have wonderful fruit components. Plus the best examples you can easily lay down for 10 years. California’s best wineries are showing what Grenache can do when planted in the right location.

Thanks, Gary! See what our other guest bloggers have had to say in our Experts category.

 

kylemittskus


quality posts: 231 Private Messages kylemittskus

Grenache from the waffleiron!!! I believe it is the most widely planted grape in the world.

I wish more CA winemakers would follow the CdP model and make some BIG grenache-based, or even single varietal, wines. Is it safe to assume that at Shadow Canyon, you are doing this? And is it too hopeful to expect to see some of said GRENACHE (instead of grenache)come our way via W.W.?

Excellent blog, by the way.

"If drinking is bitter, change yourself to wine." -Rainer Maria Rilke

"Champagne is a very kind and friendly thing on a rainy night." -Isak Dinesen

SonomaBouliste


quality posts: 238 Private Messages SonomaBouliste

Welcome aboard Gary. It's nice to see other Grenache producers and supporters. Grenache is one of my favorite grape varieties / varietal wines. I'm in agreement about crop size being of huge importance with Grenache quality - maybe more so than any grape other than Pinot Noir. Cool and warm climate are relative terms - the Rhone Valley reminds me of coastal California in many ways, including temperature regimes. Grenache does need more heat to ripen well than quite a few of our major varieties, including Syrah. When Grenache is grown properly (moderate yields, moderate climate) it can indeed have formidable tannins. We find tannin management and potential over-extraction to be important issues during vinification.

gcdyersb


quality posts: 141 Private Messages gcdyersb

1. I find it's the other way around: California Pinot tastes a lot like Grenache!

2. I didn't know Grenache was grown in SRH. I know it's a popular AVA for Pinot, and Pinot is what sells. But the Pinots still end up being mostly Power Pinots. Meanwhile, the Syrahs I've tasted from SRH are really unique and refined. SRH will definitely be a Pinot appellation because of the economics, but I often wonder if other varietals are actually better there. The more marginal the climate, the better for me. But I don't have to live in fear of frosts, harvest rains, mildew and minuscule yields!

Cabernet Franc: it's not just for blending! It's also for blogging.

ScottHarveyWines


quality posts: 157 Private Messages ScottHarveyWines

Hi Gary,
Welcome, Grenache is a wonderful variety. It is also the best variety for producing Rose. All through the 80's I produced a rose we called "Chateau cash flow". It was white Zinfandel. The whole time the grapes went by in the hooper I would say this should be Granache, this should be Grenache. Now that I don't have to make white zinfandel any more, I make my rose out of Grenache. When picked at low brix, it has those beautiful natural strawberry aromas that lend themselves wonderfully to rose as well.

mrgms


quality posts: 3 Private Messages mrgms

Welcome Gary,

I heard through the grape vine... grape vine, that's funny.

Anyway, I heard that you have been invited to participate on a very prestigious panel. Can you elaborate?

George

ShadowCanyon


quality posts: 5 Private Messages ShadowCanyon
kylemittskus wrote:Grenache from the waffleiron!!! I believe it is the most widely planted grape in the world.

I wish more CA winemakers would follow the CdP model and make some BIG grenache-based, or even single varietal, wines. Is it safe to assume that at Shadow Canyon, you are doing this? And is it too hopeful to expect to see some of said GRENACHE (instead of grenache)come our way via W.W.?

Excellent blog, by the way.



I have been making grenache since 2003,each year experimenting with different fermentation techniques. I love the big chewy wines of Cdp, and my wines definitely fall in that camp. As SonomaBouliste mentioined, you have to be careful with the tannins. There is a fine line between good color and flavor, and over-extraction of tannins. I use a pre-fermentation cold soak to get the phenolics, but usually press off early into tank to keep the harsh tannin extraction to a minimum. My 2007 vintage was pressed off at 8 brix into tank where it finished fermentation before going to barrel. You need to constantly taste the fermenting fruit to decide when you reach that point.

Gary Gibson

ShadowCanyon


quality posts: 5 Private Messages ShadowCanyon
ScottHarveyWines wrote:Hi Gary,
Welcome, Grenache is a wonderful variety. It is also the best variety for producing Rose. All through the 80's I produced a rose we called "Chateau cash flow". It was white Zinfandel. The whole time the grapes went by in the hooper I would say this should be Granache, this should be Grenache. Now that I don't have to make white zinfandel any more, I make my rose out of Grenache. When picked at low brix, it has those beautiful natural strawberry aromas that lend themselves wonderfully to rose as well.



Count me in as a big fan of Rose. I make a syrah/grenache rose most years. I do a saignee, pulling juice off after destemming, which helps to concentrate flavors. Some years more than others. In years when the vines struggle more, and produce smaller berries, not much. But in years with larger plumped up berries, it is a great tool to control quality. The by-product is a great drinking summer wine with loads of flavor.

Gary Gibson

PetiteSirah


quality posts: 80 Private Messages PetiteSirah
ShadowCanyon wrote:I have been making grenache since 2003,each year experimenting with different fermentation techniques. I love the big chewy wines of Cdp, and my wines definitely fall in that camp. As SonomaBouliste mentioined, you have to be careful with the tannins. There is a fine line between good color and flavor, and over-extraction of tannins. I use a pre-fermentation cold soak to get the phenolics, but usually press off early into tank to keep the harsh tannin extraction to a minimum. My 2007 vintage was pressed off at 8 brix into tank where it finished fermentation before going to barrel. You need to constantly taste the fermenting fruit to decide when you reach that point.



Wait, you can have too much [skin] tannin? I don't understand. You're using English, but the words, they make no sense.

Hail the victor, the king without flaw
Salute your new master ... Petite Sirah!


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ShadowCanyon


quality posts: 5 Private Messages ShadowCanyon
mrgms wrote:Welcome Gary,

I heard through the grape vine... grape vine, that's funny.

Anyway, I heard that you have been invited to participate on a very prestigious panel. Can you elaborate?

George



Hi George,
I was extemely lucky/honored to be asked to participate in the first annual Grenache symposium in Provence this June. It is hosted by Zelma Long, Steven Spurrier and Michel Bettane. Its focus is to bring Grenache growers, winemakers, restaurant and the retail industry
together to talk about everything Grenache. I am trying to work around my schedule so I can make the event. What better way to spend a few days then talking about and drinking great Grenache from around the world.Especially in France!!

Gary Gibson

richardhod


quality posts: 261 Private Messages richardhod

Great there is an experts category woot, thank you at last! But, let's have a permanent link to it somewhere in the wine.woot blog box so we can get through the mass of other blogs without having to remember it. Please!

I recently ordered half a case of the last grenaches from eaglepoint winery, so i'm looking forward to trying one.

ShadowCanyon


quality posts: 5 Private Messages ShadowCanyon
PetiteSirah wrote:Wait, you can have too much [skin] tannin? I don't understand. You're using English, but the words, they make no sense.



I press off early to reduce the extraction of harsh seed tannins. Make sense?

Gary Gibson

kylemittskus


quality posts: 231 Private Messages kylemittskus
ShadowCanyon wrote:I press off early to reduce the extraction of harsh seed tannins. Make sense?



He was joking because he, like a lot of us here, love BIG tannic wines, particularly PS. He, as you can see by his name, LOVES PS (unhealthily) = loves tannins.

"If drinking is bitter, change yourself to wine." -Rainer Maria Rilke

"Champagne is a very kind and friendly thing on a rainy night." -Isak Dinesen

ShadowCanyon


quality posts: 5 Private Messages ShadowCanyon
kylemittskus wrote:He was joking because he, like a lot of us here, love BIG tannic wines, particularly PS. He, as you can see by his name, LOVES PS (unhealthily) = loves tannins.



PS would love our 2005 reds. Both the syrah and grenache had huge tannins, which will take a few more years to settle down. They seem a little disjointed when they are young, but enough fruit to make it for the long haul. I had the opportunity to taste through a flight of 1995 Bordeaux last weekend. Some of these wines which were hard, tannic monsters when they were young, are smooth as silk after 15 years.

Gary Gibson

lmacschaf


quality posts: 16 Private Messages lmacschaf

Gary,

Great to have you here - and even better to have a focus on Grenache, by far my favorite variety to work with!!

Interesting takes on tannin management for sure. I know of many others that tend to press off sweet to minimize tannin extraction at the end of fermentation, as well as to help integrate the wine into wood sooner .. . . I'm not so sure about the 'seed tannin' issue - for me, it's more about skin contact/tannins . . .

I work with three very different vineyards for grenache, and I'm doing a lot of whole cluster experimentation - in 09, I did two separate 100% whole cluster ferments!!!

Let's keep this thread rolling, folks! And thanks again Gary . . .

By the way, will you be at Hospice du Rhone?!?!? I'll be pouring my tercero wines and it'd be great to meet as well!

Cheers!

larry schaffer
tercero wines
www.tercerowines.com

ShadowCanyon


quality posts: 5 Private Messages ShadowCanyon
lmacschaf wrote:Gary,

Great to have you here - and even better to have a focus on Grenache, by far my favorite variety to work with!!

Interesting takes on tannin management for sure. I know of many others that tend to press off sweet to minimize tannin extraction at the end of fermentation, as well as to help integrate the wine into wood sooner .. . . I'm not so sure about the 'seed tannin' issue - for me, it's more about skin contact/tannins . . .

I work with three very different vineyards for grenache, and I'm doing a lot of whole cluster experimentation - in 09, I did two separate 100% whole cluster ferments!!!

Let's keep this thread rolling, folks! And thanks again Gary . . .

By the way, will you be at Hospice du Rhone?!?!? I'll be pouring my tercero wines and it'd be great to meet as well!

Cheers!



I worry about seed tannins if I don't see them fully ripe and brown. Some years it is not much of an issue, like the 2007 vintage which saw a nice long growing season, with the fruit achieving amazing balance and ripeness. Tasting berries in the vineyard before harvest, the seeds had a nice crunchy, nutty taste. It was almost like eating grape nuts cereal! You know you going to have a nice vintage when the seeds reach that level of ripeness.

Gary Gibson

ShadowCanyon


quality posts: 5 Private Messages ShadowCanyon
ShadowCanyon wrote:I worry about seed tannins if I don't see them fully ripe and brown. Some years it is not much of an issue, like the 2007 vintage which saw a nice long growing season, with the fruit achieving amazing balance and ripeness. Tasting berries in the vineyard before harvest, the seeds had a nice crunchy, nutty taste. It was almost like eating grape nuts cereal! You know you going to have a nice vintage when the seeds reach that level of ripeness.



Hi Larry,

I am looking forward to Hospice du Rhone. The last few years there seems to be a big increase in Grencahe producers.

I will make sure to stop by Tercero to taste your latest.

Gary Gibson