What Joe’s Digging: Aussie Grenache

6 Feb

Grenache Noir grapes

Every so often I get on these kicks where I get a bit obsessive about a particular grape or region or producer.  These days I can’t get enough Grenache. More specifically, I’ve been sipping a number of Australian Grenache wines – and enjoying them quite a bit.

While not considered a “Noble” variety, Grenache is one of the most widely planted grapes in the world and an integral part of wines from the Southern Rhone, especially Chateauneuf-du-Pape and Gigondas.  Grenache is also widely planted in Spain, where its known both as Garnacha and as Alicante, and also pops up in Italy as Cannonau.  Australia is the only New World wine region where Grenache has taken a serious hold, and where some of the world’s best examples are now produced.

In the glass, Aussie Grenache wines often take the appearance of Pinot Noir: pale strawberry-red with subtle violet hues.  Aromas, too, lean towards the light, and delicate.  Bright red berry, floral notes and hard candy are common.  The palate, however, is another story: big, rich mouthfeel is commonplace, and alcohol contents above 14% is the rule.  This dichotomy is what currently attracts me to these wines.  Light, bright and elegant for summer barbeques, but with enough fullness and complexity to stand up to grilled meats and the hardcore red-wine drinkers that eat the grilled meats.

Try these out the next time you’re grilling:

Bitch Grenache South Australia $21.99
A good introduction to the Aussie style.  Sweet red berry and strawberry hard candy, soft acidity.  Think glazed BBQ ribs and pork sausage.

Yalumba Bush Vines Grenache Barossa $24.99
A more complex Grenache, with notes of earth and peppery spice.  Pick this one for chicken kebabs or peppered sirloin.

Willunga 100 Grenache Mclaren Vale $25.99
Red plum, raspberry and cherry cola with hints of cedar and rose petal.  This one will handle planked salmon nicely and is a good pick for veggie kebabs.

Shingleback Grenache McLaren Vale (Sold Out)
The richest of the group, with dark cherry and a touch of caramel.  This is the best pick for fattier steaks, lamb, or portabella mushroom burgers.

And for a good mini-history of the variety, check out this recent article in the San Francisco Examiner:

One thing is certain: Grenache spread to southern France from Spain, and today the French regions are more closely identified with the grape. Much to the chagrin of many a Spaniard, the French title grenache has become the most popular international name.

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