“Deep within Aragon, a region in the north of Spain, a deep purple-red jewel dangles in bunches from vibrant green leaves. It has grown in the warm sun of its native land, filling with a characteristic berry-type sweetness and just a touch of spiciness that make it incredibly interesting to fans of wine.”
So begins a post from the Grenache Association, extolling the virtues of Grenache, known in Spain as Garnacha. To help promote the variety, the association established International Grenache Day which, in 2018, is being celebrated either today or September 21 (depending on which online source you wish to believe).
To me, the specific day does not matter because every day could be Grenache Day. It is one of my favorite gifts of the grape, whether made as a 100% varietal wine or as part of a multi-variety cuvee. In particular, blends of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre (which the Aussies refer to simply as G-S-Ms) can be among the most complex wines you’ll encounter anywhere.
In its native Spain, the style of Garnacha wines is big, hearty and often earthy. The variety also has a long, illustrious history in France, Corsica, Sardinia, southern Italy, Sicily and Croatia.
During the 18th and 19th centuries, plantings of Grenache were spread by Europeans to non-European regions, including Australia, North Africa and California. In those areas, the variety tends to be less earthy and more fruitful.
And over the past two decades, a new generation of winemakers in Spain has been emphasizing varietal bottlings of Garnacha over the traditional blends. They have found that by controlling yields and taking advantage of the old vines, they can produce 100% Garnacha wines of exceptional character and concentration.
Convinced that it’s time to give Garnacha / Grenache a try? Let International Grenache Day provide a few platforms for your personal “testing”…
- Open a bottle to enjoy with dinner. It pairs very nicely with grilled or braised meats, including beef, veal and pork.
- Take a bottle to your favorite restaurant. This is dependent on the laws of your state and the policy of the restaurant, and if the practice is allowed, expect to pay a corkage fee. Because it’s an underappreciated variety, many restaurants do not include Grenache on their wine lists. Ask your sommelier to suggest menu items that will pair well with the wine. (You can even give him or her a taste if they aren’t sure.)
- Invite friends over for a tasting. Open a single bottle alongside a different variety, such as Merlot, so everyone can experience the differences. Or open four bottles — a Garnacha from Spain, a Chateauneuf-du-Pape from France, a Grenache from California and a G-S-M from Australia — and do a side-by-side-by-side-by-side comparison.
- Host a “Tapas and Grenache” night. Ask a group of friends to bring over some of their favorite dishes, made or cut into bite-sized servings, and have two or three different Grenache wines on hand to accompany them. Think of it as a Spanish-themed potluck for adults only.
International Grenache Day serves as a reminder that there is more to red-wine life than Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. We love those varieties, but you’re missing out on a lot when you don’t give others a try.
As respected wine critic Robert Parker has noted, “Grenache has basically been disregarded for the last century. I find myself buying more and more Grenache-based wines as I get older.”