Friday, April 16

Grenache, the untold story

by Gary Gibson

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.

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