Grenache becoming a star in its own right

There’s a black grape variety that ranks second globally for the most acreage under cultivation, yet it gets nowhere near the same recognition as the noble cabernet sauvignon or sexy syrah.

Grenache is really the dominant grape of Europe, sprawling, in several hues, all across Spain and southern France. In Australia, grenache was only recently overtaken by shiraz, and on the West Coast of the United States, we can thank our ancestors for the original plantings of grenache and the “Rhone rangers” for perpetuating its popularity today.

The presence of grenache around the western Mediterranean can be traced to the once-powerful Aragon kingdom of eastern Spain that controlled territory as far away as southern Italy. The grape was, and still is, known as garnacha in Spain. It originated in the northern province of Aragon and then spread to Rioja and Navarre before settling in with extensive vineyard lands both north and south of the Pyrenees. From here grenache made its way east to become well established in the southern Rhone Valley in France.

Whatever its origins, grenache today covers more vine-dedicated ground than any other high profile variety. For a grape that covers such an amazing amount of terrain, the average wine drinker encounters it remarkably rarely under its own name. That’s because grenache is mostly blended with other varieties that inject darker color and/or firmer tannins.

I had the distinct pleasure recently of gathering with some fellow “grenache geeks” for a retrospective tasting of this wonderful grape in its various incarnations. The diversity that this grape displayed was incredible. From the northern Rhone there were the most majestic Chateauneuf-du-Pape houses representing the most prestigious vintages. From the south of France further along the Rhone, there were wines from the tiny medieval villages of Vacqueyras and Gigondas that showcased how this grape can seamlessly integrate with its cousins (syrah, cinsault, mourvedre or carignan) to create a truly gorgeous beverage. Australia was represented with grenache less diluted; in fact, a 100 percent grenache showed what the grape can express given the right conditions (and our slightly dimmed clarity) and the results were a resounding … WOW!

Next came the Spanish contingency and the inspiring wines from Priorato. This wine comes from the northeastern part of Spain where the methods used to make this grenache-based wine have barely altered since Carthusian monks first established this winemaking practice in the 12th century.

Finally, we came back home to discover American style grenache, and the result was a trifecta. You see, the same bottle (producer and vintage) was brought by three different enophiles, and these wines were the quintessential expression of the grape with a California twist.

Washington state is also giving grenache a look-see, and Doug McCrea of McCrea Winery is leading the way. His wines are showing elegance and grace worthy of global recognition and local duplication. Look for grenache to be an up-and-coming grape variety in our home state.

It’s tough work doing all this research to find and taste all the wines of the world able to curl your toes and raise your brows and then relay that information to anyone who may be interested. This week I’m the pied piper of grenache.

Jeff Wicklund, wine consultant and writer, is the proprietor of Colby Hospitality in Everett. He can be reached at 425-317-9858, or wick@colbyhospitality.com.

Great grenache

Hill of Content Grenache/Shiraz 2001 $15. Here is a beautifully rich and smooth Australian blend of 60 percent Grenache and 40 percent shiraz that coats your palate with bright raspberry and black cherry flavors with a hint of fresh cracked black pepper on the long, velvety finish.

Sang des Cailloux 2001 Vacqueyras $30. This is one of the most impressive southern Rhones I’ve ever tasted. A blend of 65 percent grenache, 20 percent syrah, 10 percent mourvedre and 5 percent cinsault, Sang des Cailloux means “blood of the stones.” Its aromas are loaded with spice and black pepper, the magical scent of the Provencal shrub garrigue, and all so expansive you can literally breathe it in. It’s a phenomenal bottle of wine.

McCrea 2002 Sirocco $15. A Washington state blend of 52 percent grenache, 24 percent syrah, 19 percent mourvedre and 5 percent counoise, this wine is named after the hot, dry wind that blows from Africa across the Mediterranean. Lush and fruit-forward with slightly higher alcohol, it’s balanced by greater fruit intensity, tannins and excellent acidity.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Life

Carrie Compton clips leaves from the plants for sale at Houseplants Galore on Friday, Jan. 12, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
The great indoors: Houseplants to bring in a touch of spring

At Houseplants Galore in Everett, discover rare and beautiful plant specimens grown with care.

Cameron Hewitt
Switzerland's Lauterbrunnen Valley looks pastoral but it hides a powerful dose of natural wonder.
Rick Steves’ Europe: In the Swiss Alps, the laws of nature rule

The travel guru learned to respect the power of nature in the shadow of Switzerland’s towering Jungfrau.

Inside Elle Marie Hair Studio in Smokey Point. (Provided by Acacia Delzer)
The best hair salon in Snohomish County

You voted, we tallied. Here are the results.

For more than a thousand years, Czech leaders – from kings and emperors to Nazis, communists, and presidents – have ruled from Prague Castle, regally perched on a hill above the Vltava River. Dominic Arizona Bonuccelli
Rick Steves’ Europe: History lives in Prague and its hilltop castle

It’s one of Europe’s best-preserved cities, having been spared from last century’s bombs.

Alarm clock in the middle of the night insomnia or dreaming
Trouble sleeping? Try these tips for getting a good night’s rest

Many adults turn to sleep aids, including alcohol, to help them rest, without realizing that their hectic lifestyles may be contributing to their sleeplessness.

The Stumbling Fiddler Band is scheduled to perform March 3 in Everett. (Photo provided by Port Gardner Bay Music Society)
Music, theater and more: What’s happening in Snohomish County

Get ready for St. Patrick’s Day with music by the Stumbling Fiddler Band in Everett.

I was charged an extra $250 for a mistaken car rental upgrade

When Leah Page picks up her rental car from Thrifty, it charges her a $250 upgrade fee. Can it do this without her permission, and how can she get a refund?

Naomi Jacobson as Dr. Ruth K. Westheimer in "Becoming Dr. Ruth" at Village Theatre in Everett. (Auston James)
Music, theater and more: What’s happening in Snohomish County

“Becoming Dr. Ruth,” which tells the sex therapist’s amazing back story, is now showing at Village Theatre in Everett.

Over 200 years, the magic lantern transformed into an educational peacock

Regarded as magic in the 1650s, this device was refined into the more scientific sounding sciopticon by the mid-1800s.

Market for sale plants. Many plants in pots
Snohomish Garden Club plans annual plant sale

The event is scheduled for April 27 at Swan’s Trail Farms. Proceeds will go to scholarships.

Start planting now so you can stop to smell your own roses all summer long

Late winter to early spring is perfect for planting roses. And with so many varieties to consider, there’s no time to waste.

The 2024 Mazda3 hatchback. (Mazda)
2024 Mazda3 adds a Carbon Turbo trim and more safety features

The charismatic compact is available as a four-door sedan or five-door hatchback.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.