This month I thought I would break the seasonal rules and write about one of the oldest and most widely planted grapes that many don’t realize is found in many wines from many countries. In France it is called Grenache; in Spain, Garnacha. When you drink wine blends from Cotes du Rhone and Chateauneuf du Pape, you are drinking Grenache. If someone says that this is a GSM, they are referring to the blend of grapes composing the wine – Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre. Several regions in northeastern and central Spain produce Grenache based wines: La Mancha, Rioja, Priorat, Penedes, Terra Alta, to name some. Grenache in general provides a warm, generous mouthfeel consisting of ripe blackberry and blackcurrant along with some subtle gamey and herbal notes. The darker the colour, the stronger the flavours will be. Here are some that represent the range of Grenache/Garnacha wines available locally that you might want to try.
Oh yes, I said at the outset that I would break the seasonal rules – rosé for summer, big reds for winter. Well this grape varietal is so versatile that it is good at any time of the year with a wide variety of dishes. The rosé will match well with baked or grilled fish while the white (if you can find it from time to time) is described below. Then in the red, it can be light and fruity or dark and full bodied matching a range of meats like ham, pork and beef done various ways. I even use the Carinena version below with stuffed holiday turkey if I don’t happen to have a nice Beaujolais on hand. Hint: match the wine to the strongest flavours in the food. Unseasoned turkey alone is bland but with spices and herbs in the stuffing accompanied by traditional veggies on the plate, it is a match!
Castillo de Monseran Garnacha, Carinena DO
Carinena, Spain, 750 mL bottle | 14.5%abv LCBO#: 73395 $10.95 – Smiths Falls 13 bottles
Deep ruby colour; aromas of ripe black cherry, anise and a touch of chocolate; medium bodied, medium tannins and juicy plum, mint and spice flavours. This wine is 100% Garnacha (Grenache if you prefer). It comes from Carinena south of Zaragoza smack in the heart of Aragon. Because of the high mountain location, the vineyards benefit from a cooler climate that graces this wine with wonderful fruit and at a price that cannot be beat!
Terra Alta, Spain, 750 mL bottle | LCBO#: 598267 – $15.60 only in Toronto just now
Crafted from Grenache Blanc grapes grown in Terra Alta, the northern ‘high lands’ of Spain, this creamy wine has a vibrant nose with notes of white fruit and minerals. Its fresh, silky flavour is a fine match for pork, chicken and soft cheeses.
La Fage Miraflors Rose Cotes Du Roussillon AOC
Rosé from Roussillon, France, 750 mL bottle | 12.5%abv LCBO#: 367375 $13.55 Athens 10 bottles Delta 2 bottles
Named after an old estate in the heart of Domaine Lafage. The combination of mourvedre and old vine grenache gris is aged in tank before bottling. The result is a pale salmon colour with an elegant bouquet of roses, strawberry and white peach, leading to a clean and pure palate that ends with crisp, refreshing flavours.
Side story: If you like Ontario rosé, Martin Malivoire is the man who created this class of wine in Ontario when in 1995 he started his winery specifically to produce a great pink wine in Niagara. He planted Gamay and Pinot Gris to make his rosé and later he planted some Dijon clones of Gamay, the same ones used in Beaujolais, to get the rosé he wanted. These grape varietals together with his winemaker (Ann Sperling at the time who is now Head Winemaker at Southbrook Winery in Niagara and owner of her own winery in her home region Okanagan, B.C., as well as in Mendoza, Argentina) amazingly made a great, high quality red wine in Ontario. Malivoire’s Ladybug Rosé, first produced in 1998, became an instant hit. Today, Ladybug Rosé is LCBO’s number one Canadian rosé and Malivoire’s flagship wine.
750 mL bottle | VINTAGES#: 354191 $18.95 – Perth 17 bottles
Robert Parker scores 91-93
Made from 65 year old vines grown in a range of soils including granite, slate, schist, and quartz near the Mediterranean coast; bright floral aromas of violet and dark chocolate with flavours of raspberry and licorice. Plush texture, soft tannins with an elegant aftertaste and clean, lovely finish. This shows you the versatility and range of wines that can be made from Grenache – from soft, light and fresh Rose, to a fruity red wine, through to this more full bodied and smooth version, each matching quite a range of different food courses or simply for sitting back and sipping.