Wine of the Week: International Grenache Day

WASHINGTON — Today is International Grenache Day, and there are plenty of reasons to celebrate; namely the variety of wonderful Grenache-based wines from around the world.

Grenache has proved to be a diverse workhorse of a varietal, adding depth, body and fruit to blends as well as offering juicy fruits and chunky texture one its own. It can be found in simple table wines as well as cult status superstars. It’s known by many names, including Garnacha, Cannonau, Alicante and Garnaxta — all depending upon where in the world you are.

Grenache is a red wine grape known mostly for its supporting role in French Chateauneuf du Pape wines. But under the right circumstances, it can shine on its own. And it is the perfect transitional wine. Just like the last bowl of oatmeal in Goldilocks — it’s not too big; it’s not too little; it’s just right.

Surprisingly, Grenache is one of the most widely planted grape varietals in the world. The hardy, sun-loving grape is generally spicy, with accents on soft red and black berry flavors and, thanks to mild tannins, has a softer mouthfeel on the palate.

In France, as mentioned above, it is usually the dominant grape when blended with other Southern Rhone Valley varietals, such as Mourvèdre and Cinsaut. It is also found in many rosé wines in southern France and parts of Spain. It has gained huge popularity in Australia where its softer fruit qualities are used in “GSM” blends with Syrah and Mourvèdre.

In the early 1960s and through the 1980s, Grenache was planted throughout the San Joaquin Valley of Central California, where it was mainly used as a blending component for jug wines.

But in the mid-1980s, it became the little darling of the Rhone Rangers movement in the Central Coast region of California. Today, it can also be found thriving in Napa Valley as well as southern Oregon and parts of Washington State.

Here are a few Grenache wines to enjoy today, as well as the rest of the year.

From the Languedoc region of France comes the delicious 2011 Le Cirque Rouge, boasts an aromatic bouquet of black fruit and violets on the nose and flavors of ripe black raspberry and smoked meat on the front of the tongue, this wine is both bright and complex at the same time.  A touch of eucalyptus and black olive on the juicy finish is enough to keep you coming back for another sip. $16

One of my favorite Spanish wines in the under $20 category is the 2012 QUO Grenache Old Vines from the Campo de Borja region in the northwest province of Aragon. This lovely wine displays aromas of cherry and strawberry on the bouquet and lush, silky flavors of raspberry, strawberry and jammy red berry that keep building and deepening through the finish. The seductive, intense fruit and fat round flavors make this wine shine. $15

Australian winemakers love playing around with Grenache, and I think the 2009 d’Arenberg Derelict Grenache, from the McLaren Vale region of South Australia is a far cry from its namesake. It shows up in the glass with wonderful aromas of violets, black cherry and blueberry jam followed up by luscious flavors of kirschwasser, licorice, and spice on a medium-bodied frame. The fruit-driven finish is round and expansive. $25

The wines of Orin Swift have been getting a lot of attention lately, and for good reason; they’re delicious. Try to get your hands on a bottle of 2014 Orin Swift Abstract. The Abstract is a blend of Napa, Sonoma, and Mendocino Grenache, Petite Sirah, and Syrah grapes grown primarily on hillside vineyards. It has a complex palate of candied cherry, strawberry jam, cigar box and bramble. The finish is flashy, with notes of Asian spices, mocha, and a touch of wet-stone minerality, all framed by a round, lush texture. $32

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