Monday, October 23, 2006

I Say Grenache. You Say Garnacha.

But let's not call the whole thing off.

Grenache noir is the world’s most widely planted grape used to make red wine. It’s used to make everything from lowly California jug wine to Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

I was pondering this while sipping and comparing two grenache-based wines over the weekend. The wines were Delas Frères Côtes du Ventoux 2004 and Artazuri Navarra 2004.

It wasn’t necessarily a competitive comparison. For starters, the Delas is a blend—80% grenache and the balance made up of syrah and carignan, and the Artazuri is 100% garnacha (as grenache is refered to in Spain). This was more of a curiosity tasting—comparing two wines from different places made predominately from the same grape.

It was also a which-one-of-these-will-be-a-regular-in-my-wine-rack tasting.

They are very different wines. The Delas was more complicated and nuanced, and the Artazuri much more fresh and fruit-forward. This makes sense since the Delas has some syrah and carignan, as well as the benefit of some barrel aging. The Artazuri is tank fermented.

Another difference is vine age; the fruit for the Artazuri is sourced from younger vineyards. I’m guessing the Delas comes from more established vineyards.

Côtes du Ventoux is always one of my favorite bargain-hunting areas. The wines frequently have much of the character of Côtes du Rhône with a little less of the price tag. The Delas was a perfect example: racy flavors of black cherry, sweet spice and a little tar on the finish.

When I think of grenache, I tend to think of France and the wines of the Southern Rhone. However, Spain actually has way more garnacha planted. It’s a pretty standard fixture in many of the “new” Spanish wines, which can be anything from light, fruity garnacha/temperanillo blends to the powerful cabernet sauvignon/garnacha blends of Priorat.

The Artazuri is an example of the former. It displayed lots of fresh cherry and raspberry flavors, but unfortunately none of the white pepper notes I expect with 100% garnacha. It’s still a nice, lighter red wine suitable for quaffing (Sunday afternoon wine).

Another place grenache is making its presence felt is in Australia. Historically, there has been a lot of grenache planted there. Some has been torn up in pursuit of more market-friendly varieties, but grenache is showing up is a variety of blends, including the pricier “GSM” (grenache, shiraz, mourvedre) blends coming out of the Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale. Even the invasive-as-kudzu brand, Yellowtail, has a shiraz/grenache blend.

While these were both very nice and priced about the same, ($10-ish) I’m still looking for another contender. Suggestions, anyone?

1 comment:

El Jefe said...

Seek out d'Arenberg (Australian) Grenaches, the "Derelict Vineyard" Grenache immediately comes to mind. I recall the price of that one being in the mid-teens. Lots of fresh and deep fruit flavors, along with that white pepper...

- j