Wine comes with a fair amount of pretension and snobbery. There are the Pinot snobs, the Chardonnay snobs, and—worst of all—the Cabernet Snobs. The country club crowd works hard to keep those grapes revered above all others. Hell, how else are they going to keep everyone buying their wines at such exorbitant prices?
But if you step outside the gated community, away from the golf carts and the manicured lawns, you can find some gorgeous wines that know how to have a good time. Exhibit A—Grenache.
Grenache isn't without a pedigree. It hails from Northern Spain and made a name for itself in the Rhone Valley of France. (Chateau Rayas was awarded 100 pts and its heritage goes back hundreds of years.) Grenache is planted all over the world, including Australia and South Africa. But its rustic country roots have relegated it to red-headed stepchild status where the bourgeois are concerned.
Since it's been given a bad rap, here are a few things you should know about Grenache.
- Grenache is a medium-bodied wine, due to its fairly thin skin, with limited tannin and anthocyanins (pigment).
- Grenache makes a great blush wine that is very bright, with crisp acidity and gorgeous fruit flavors.
- Quality reds made from Grenache need to hang much less fruit per vine to concentrate the flavors and structure.
- Grenache does well with the head-pruned (bush or goblet) style of pruning. This is a very inefficient canopy for a vine and it will naturally produce less fruit, hence better flavor intensity and structural concentration. The Head pruned format also provides good protection from the direct sunlight. Grenache prefers some shading of the fruit with dappled sunlight.
- Grenache is a fruit-forward, acid-driven wine that tends to be spicy in certain soils and climates. It tends to do well on the Central Coast.
- South of the Cuesta Grade, the Grenache is much darker, brooding and has more black pepper.
Basically, Grenache is a gorgeous, bright wine with great fruit and spice. It may always be an outsider, but so will I. If you're not afraid of getting kicked out of the club, you should give it a shot.
This Grenache was named in homage to a favorite Van Halen Song of mine because it's got great legs. Look for a different pair every vintage. They are timeless—like the wine.