VinTrends: Great Grenache

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Grenache is the other noble and global red grape originating from France’s southern Rhône Valley and Spain’s northeastern regions. It is the basis of the famed, typically multi-grape blend Châteauneuf du Pape and its surrounding Côtes du Rhône, along with its expansive neighboring Roussillon region and monovarietal and multivarietal expressions of Priorat and Rioja in Spain (a.k.a. Garnacha). It also constitutes the foundation of GSM (Grenache/Syrah/Mourvèdre) blends throughout the world. It also performs well when made pink, sparkling, or sweet when fortified or not, with its blanc and gris mutations performing admirably as white wine both still and sparkling—a delicious diversity grown on six continents!

Successfully made in many US states, “there’s a delayed understanding of what Grenache is capable of,” according to Doug Frost MS MW of his Walla Walla Valley’s Echolands Winery, fashioning it in red and pink. “Early in my career, I was inspired by Australia’s McLaren Vale and went there to discover that these wines were delicious, and I needed to know more!”

When grown upon soils containing a preponderance of rocks, Grenache keeps a pH level supporting its mid-palate fruit intensity via thicker skins. “Grenache fulfills the promise that Pinot noir only makes,” said d’Arenberg’s Chester Osborn. Osborn laid claim to his assertion, “It’s the most expensive variety in the Australian market driven both by producer and consumer demand. It shows more earnestness, richness, length, and drinkability than Pinot and many other varieties, though its sensitivity is comparable to it and to Nebbiolo.”

It doesn’t hurt, too, that Australia’s rife with some of the world's oldest vines at 50-110 years of age. “Compared to how Australian wines once were, we’re seeing more Grenache that’s juicy, spicy, and fragrant with plenty of fully ripe tannins—and you cannot extract too many tannins from it.”

When pressed to expound upon its ability to wrest character from its terroir, Osborn said, “The older the vines, the deeper the roots, the more expressive the wine of its place.”

The director of Roussillon’s governing body, Eric Aracil, characterized this propensity to express its soil with a bloody taste from the schist and slate soils pervading his region of southern France.

Since 2010’s launch of International Grenache Day (Grenache du Monde), an annual event created by the aforementioned Osborn, Andy Abramson’s steered the ship here on behalf of the European Grenache/Garnacha initiative, “Like a Harvard grad, when someone makes a Cabernet, they’ll often refer to themselves as a ‘Cabernet Winemaker,’ but Grenache producers haven’t that pretense and refer to themselves merely as a winemaker who works with many grapes along with Grenache. That represents its tendency to be understated though never underappreciated.”

Abramson added that Grenache is often best enjoyed after it’s aged a couple of years and served with a slight chill to tame its typical high-ish alcohol level. “It goes so well with many foods,” he said.

I concur with Abramson, especially that Grenache excels when made in tanks or older oak barrels (classic examples of this Bonny Doon’s Clos du Gilroy and pink Vin Gris de Cigare from California) rather than in new(er) barrels as this can diminish its fruitiness.

Abramson's claim to this was reflected in a visit I made to Manhattan’s La Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels where sommelier Aaron Blankfield joined some friends and I for its signature grilled cheese sandwich with France’s red Les Quilles Libres and white Clos de L’Oragine, along with other wines and dishes.

david furer grenache
David with Howard Furer and Isolina staff. (Photo: Blu Guerrier)

Grenache blanc is a floral wine with some structure, and its acidity cut through the gooey-ness of the grilled cheese without detracting from its appeal. I found the red pairing well with its aioli-dressed roasted Iberico steak. The flexibility of the wines and foods were amongst the greatest I’ve enjoyed in my 33 years working with wine, a testament to its kitchen as well as this grape.

A recent holiday in Costa Rica allowed me to take this to a geographic extreme when dining at its capital of San José’s Restaurante Isolina, where partner Lissa Barquero and sommelier Mizael Urbano Alvarado plied my father Howard and I with bottles of Spain’s 2021 Capitán Quesada red from Madrid and the 2022 Les Alifares de Celler Frisach Grenache gris from Terre Alta made in an orange style.

Below are a select few of the many great Grenache wines worth trying!


Pierre Amadieu 2020 Le Pas d’Aigle Gigondas France

With 10% Syrah in the mix, its complexity, lushness, and length has deservedly garnered an acknowledgment by a key U.S. wine consumer magazine.


Marañones 2020 30.000 Maravedíes Vinos de Madrid Spain

Biodynamically grown on Gredos’ high altitude and granitic soils, its grip distinguishes it from most Grenache, allowing in herbal and floral notes and ripe tannins as much as red fruits.


Echolands 2022 Rocks District WA

Supple, and due to its vines’ youth, relatively light-bodied and structurally reminiscent of Pinot noir. A great ‘starter’ Grenache for those accustomed to Burgundy’s renowned red.


d’Arenberg 2019 The Custodian McLaren Vale Australia

Unrefined and unfiltered, it's red all over--color, fruit flavors and aromas--with a snappy, exciting finish of acid and tannins. Easily served and enjoyed by the glass or bottle.


Arnaud de Villeneuve Terrassous Rivesaltes Hors d’Age 6 Ans France

Fortified Grenache blanc, its sweetness is buttressed by gentle oxidation, lending a nutty note suitable for its pairing with caramelized desserts, adding complexity to a cool weather cocktail, or serving solo as mid-afternoon respite.


If you've got a story to share with BAR AND RESTAURANT about wine staff trainings you've taken part in -- self-initiated or employer-required, in-house or by a consultant or a distributor rep, or via an outside program or books or online courses -- please email David at [email protected] for his future VinTrends column 'The Good, the Bad, and the Meh - Staff Trainings for Wine'.


Since 1986, David Furer has served in the on- and off-premise trenches in his native U.S. and former adoptive homes of Great Britain and Germany; directed & hosted international wine business conferences in Europe, Asia, and online concerned with its future and climate change; and contributed to wines & spirits media outlets in the U.S. and Great Britain. He also provides marketing & communications expertise to organizations throughout the world from his New York home while somehow finding time to host the consumer-facing podcast Drinking on the Edge. You can reach him at [email protected].


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