The Grenache Thread

Discussion in 'UK Wine Forum' started by Jonathan Hesford, Dec 31, 2015.

  1. In response to some requests/questions about Grenache (noir) and why people seem to dislike it. I thought it would be nice to have a thread dedicated to discussing the dry red wines made primarily from Grenache noir.

    I'll start with some viticultural/oenological info about the variety.
    It needs plenty of heat to ripen. It can gain sugar and lose acidity quite quickly and sometimes before its skins are phenolically ripe enough to give good colour and round tannins. So it's quite choosy about its terroir and vintages.
    That lack of tannin can make it prone to oxidation in the winery. The high alcohol generally protects it from turning to vinegar but it can take on Porty characters. Also the high initial sugar makes it easier for more technical wineries to produce slightly sweet reds with some residual sugar.

    Yes, there are lots of bland, overly sweet, soft and alcoholically hot wines out there. But there are also wines that emphasis the chocolate character, or wild Mediterranean herbs, or Eastern spices. Their fruit isn't simple ripe strawberry. It's a combination of dried figs, stewed prunes, brambles and other berries.

    Here are a couple of recent wines based on Grenache that I've really liked;
    Domaine Fondreche, 2013, Ventoux (50% Gr, 40% Sy, 10% Mv) - Lovely nose of roast meat and dark fruit. Similarly rich palate with lovely balance.
    Domaine Gilles Troullier "L'Esprit du Temps" 2013. Cotes Catalanes (100% Gr) - Very light and beautiful with elegant nose and palate.
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2016
  2. FWIW my TNs for 2015;
    • 2008 Domaine de la Rectorie Banyuls Cuvée Léon Parcé - France, Languedoc Roussillon, Roussillon, Banyuls (16/01/2015)
      Confected, blowsy, simplistic. Age has added nothing. Another underwhelming Banyuls, despite being from a fine producer. (85 pts.)
    • 2000 Domaine Santa Duc Gigondas Prestige des Hautes Garrigues - France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Gigondas (30/12/2015)
      Hardly budged since previous bottle two years ago. Plenty of grunt. One for the long haul. (91 pts.) See below.
    • 2005 Domaine Raymond Usseglio & Fils Châteauneuf-du-Pape - France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape (04/12/2015)
      Blood red; mulled fruit, 'big'; burly, full bodied, stewed plums, powerful; alcohol burn to the finish. Time may tames this, but the chance is low. (86 pts.)
    • 2011 Château de Saint-Cosme Côtes du Rhône Les Deux Albion - France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Côtes du Rhône (08/11/2015)
      V. dark; cherries & redcurrants, lifted; marked acidity, tart, forced; attenuated, harsh. The next day this had rounded out to a degree & fleshier but retained an unpleasant finish. (84 pts.)
    • 2010 Les Vins de Vienne Côtes du Rhône Les Cranilles - France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Côtes du Rhône (05/06/2015)
      Remains dark; meaty, solid; full bodied; stewed fruit - drying out; drink up. (85 pts.)
    • 2009 Domaine de Fondrèche Ventoux Cuvée Carles Nadal - France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Ventoux (29/05/2015)
      Deep colour; beefy nose; rugged, musclebound. If tannins melt should improve over next couple of years. (86 pts.)
    • 2013 Domaine de la Mordorée Tavel Rosé La Dame Rousse - France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Tavel (11/04/2015)
      Coral pink; bags of fruit; soft, strawberried, easy going. An inviting wine, for the shorter term. Despite lacking the structure of previous years, just a delight. (89 pts.)
    • 2000 Domaine Santa Duc Gigondas Prestige des Hautes Garrigues - France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Gigondas (03/01/2014)
      Pale garnet; warm brick, worn leather, shows bottle age/maturity but also vitality; mellow, yet retains peppery punch, full bodied; finishes powerfully with typical heft. This deepened & added weighty over several hours. Plenty of time in hand, as long as fruit holds. (91 pts.)
    Posted from CellarTracker
  3. Thanks for starting this thread, Jonathan. Over these last few years I've been trying to refine what I think about Grenache noir and the wines therefrom, and I'll be interested to hear what others say.

    Firstly, I think if handled carefully there is much that is attractive in younger, fragrant wines made for the shorter haul. But that bloom of youth wears off pretty quickly. Then there are the grand old wines that made it to a ripe old age without falling into senility. I like them too.

    But that leaves a hell of a lot in the middle, and that's where I have had most of my disappointments. Although to be fair there have been the occasional revelations. But that's really all they have been. The disappointments have exceeded the pleasant bottles. Recurring problems involve harshness on the palate, headache inducing alcohol levels, lack of balance and lack of nuance - that ability to come back and find hints of notes you hadn't seen earlier.

    I accept there are outside factors at work here, the most obvious being that Grenache has had a central part to play in the "bigging up" of Rhone reds to meet certain palates. Then there are the technical factors such as you just described, such as the fact that that the acidity "can fall off a cliff", as another winemaker once put it to me. The problem for me as a punter in the marketplace is knowing how to steer between all these obstacles.

    One final point - there is a possibility that some people may simply not like the taste of Grenache. There are plenty who dislike the taste of wines from other grape varieties so I can't see why grenache should be exempt. Conversely, I think others probably love it to death. I don't think I fall into either category. I would like to drink more red grenache wines that I enjoy, but it's more of a crapshoot than many other variety from the Med. area - even these days carignan, and that's a grape that can make truly horrible wines.

    (PS - just reading Mark's posting above, I wonder if there are certain common factors between us here)
  4. Very nice, I am always keen on threads like this ie "Hooked on Muscadet". This way one can just add TNs over a period of time (sometimes from the archive!!!).
    Mark Carrington likes this.
  5. Interesting thread as we consider opening a Cristia 2006 chateauneuf for a venison casserole tonight... Any experience here?

    I like Grenache and some of the cooler spanish numbers work well for me, including the "garnachas de espana" project of which majestic sells the entry level version. But as mentioned elsewhere it can get horribly blowsy and hot.
  6. PS Jonathon, we had your 2006 Secret last night and enjoyed it very much... Age has been very kind to it we felt!
  7. Jonathan, I join in thanking you for starting this thread and for your excellent introduction.

    A CT search on my Grenache consumption gave very incomplete results but searching on Red Rhône Blend as well led to a more complete picture. I was surprised how much I have got through in the 19 months since I started using CT.

    Like many people, I guess, I find Grenache and its blends capable of producing the best (almost) and the worst (certainly) and a lot in between. 100% Grenache is, I think, quite rare, exceptions which spring to mind being Rayas, Hervé Bizeul's exorbitant Petite Sibérie and VDNs from Roussillon. The first can be wonderful but I quickly drank all the bottles which I owned because I found them so delicious. I have tried to pick out from my consumption some silk purses and sow's ears as well as some in-betweens which are good QPR.

    2013 Famille Perrin / Perrin & Fils Vinsobres Les Cornuds - France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Vinsobres (12/28/2015)

    As usual with S.Rhône, I served this quite cool and it turned out to be a very nice medium/full bodied CDRV with more savoury raspberry tinged fruit and more flinty minerals than most together with fresh acidity and good backbone. This showed robust elegance and none of the cloying heaviness quite common in the region. Very good wine and decent QPR at €9.

    2012 Hecht et Bannier Maury Vintage - France, Languedoc Roussillon, Roussillon, Maury (12/25/2015)

    A delicious Maury burgeoning with raspberry and blackberry tinged fruit also showing good minerals, lively acidity to complement the discreet sweetness and backbone. At least as good as Mas Amiel and, like that one, a perfect pairing with a chocolate based dessert. Very good wine and fair QPR at €12.

    1996 Marc Parcé Rivesaltes Élevé 18 ans en barriques - France, Languedoc Roussillon, Roussillon, Rivesaltes (11/7/2015)

    Lovely pink and amber colour. Light/medium bodied with cherry and nut infused gentle sweetness and good acidity to brighten it up against a chocolate dessert. Very good.

    2014 Georges Lelektsoglou Côtes du Rhone Villages Visan Les Hautes Terres - France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Côtes du Rhone Villages Visan (10/13/2015)

    This is a delightful young CdRV. Medium bodied at most but blessed with a rare purity of aroma and of strawberry and plum tinged fruit, unusually fresh tangy acidity, minerals and an attractively bitter backbone. A million miles away from some of the unctuously heavy offerings from the region and very moreish. Organic grapes and wine unfiltered. Good++ wine at very good QPR at €6.

    1998 Mas Jullien Coteaux du Languedoc - France, Languedoc Roussillon, Languedoc, Coteaux du Languedoc (7/26/2015)

    I was surprised to find that I still had a bottle from this vintage of my favourite Languedoc estate. Though the colour was still deep and vigorous, I don't think that this bottle had quite the excellence of a previous one in 2011 nor of my last bottle of 2000 earlier this year. The aromas on the nose and plate showed primary fruit, some sweet cherry, at first but with airing red rose, Southern herbs, anise and some mint, tar and leather came up and pushed the fruit into the background. Body was medium to full, the palate was well focussed, harmonious with gentle acidity, classically shaped and quite mouth-filling and long with ripe tannic support for the finish. However the alcohol (14%) was more obtrusive than I noted on that previous bottle which is probably a sign of a little fading. Still very good though.

    2000 Domaine de la Mordorée Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée de la Reine des Bois - France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape (1/1/2015)

    I have an outstanding memory of a bottle of this (but cannot find a TN) and was expecting it to "beat" the Beaucastel '99 which preceded but it didn't. It took some time to open up but when it did the fruit seemed brighter than the Beau's. This was a suave and polished CndP with full/medium body, rich fruit, good ripe tannic structure and decent length showing notes of sweet cherry and plum, hints of leather, touches of chocolate and enough pepper and spice to provide local character. The Beau had more depth and secondary development. Very good.

    1999 Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape - France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape (1/1/2015)

    Not so big as much CndP but more elegant with beautiful dark fruit showing good depth and length and infused with herb, balsamic touches and hints of forest floor and was supported on the finish by resolved tannins. Very good.

    2013 Les Clos de Paulilles Collioure Cuvée Valenti - France, Languedoc Roussillon, Roussillon, Collioure (12/20/2014)

    I am especially disappointed because this wine was recommended by the Revue du Vin de France, whose palates are usually closer to mine than , say, are the Wine Advocate's? Deep purple tinted carmine and nose of synthetic red fruit, rose hip oil and liquorice. The quite full body showed perfumed red fruit akin to that of an industrial ice cream, more rose hip, slight sweetness and harsh underlying liquorice, quinine and dry caramel becoming more pronounced towards the finish. The estate is now owned by la Maison Cazes which has a good reputation which makes this showing puzzling. I'll leave my other bottle a few years to see if there is improvement. There is certainly no temptation to reach for it.

    2005 Domaine du Clos des Fées Vieilles Vignes - France, Languedoc Roussillon, Roussillon, Côtes du Roussillon Villages (12/2/2014)

    I like this wine a lot more than some of the posters here on CT. Colour was a dense carmine red and the nose was discreet but showing beautiful notes of mature dark fruit and roses with a dash of tar. The velvety palate was full/medium bodied with depth and roundness showing the promised rose tinged dark fruit with tar touches confirmed, discreet garrigue and enough acidity for balance leading to a firm liqueur tinged finish where the high alcohol (15%) was unobtrusive. Very good classy Mediterranean wine but the prices for current vintages are quite high for Roussillon (c.€25).

    PS: "Assemblage des plus vieilles vignes du domaine (50 à 100 ans) : 50 % Grenache et LLadoner Pelut, 35% Carignan, 15% Syrah." (91 pts.)

    1999 Clos des Papes Châteauneuf-du-Pape - France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape (10/4/2014)

    This was a beautiful CndP at its peak. It was not a blockbuster and showed an unusual Burgundy type elegance. It had medium/full body, velvety texture, smooth acidity, round sweet cherry tinged fruit infused with game and forest floor notes leading to a decently long and firm finish with kirsch hints. It was an ideal pairing for reindeer steak brought back from Finland. Excellent.

    2012 Bodegas Borsao Garnacha Campo de Borja Tres Picos - Spain, Aragón, Campo de Borja (7/31/2014)

    This wine is a caricature of all that I dislike in "modern" interventionist wine-making. Some concentrated (and potentially attractive?) brambly fruit is swamped by a spine of dry caramel (undigested wood) and the finish is more than spicy - it is burning and abrasive. We were unable to drink more than a glass each. I strongly doubt whether more age would render this wine more drinkable for me but I'm keeping back the undrunk two-thirds of the bottle to see what a day open brings.

    1996 Domaine des Grands Devers Côtes du Rhône Villages Valréas - France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Côtes du Rhône Villages (7/27/2014)

    This is a lovely wine, which like so many does not tick the conventional boxes for a high score. The colour is quite light with strong tawny tints. But the nose shows lively but round cherry aromas with metallic and meat hints more like a northern than southern Rhône. The medium/light palate has an almost Burgundian elegance adding lively acidity, peppery notes and secondary flavours to the fruit which carries on the aromas from the nose and culminates in a firm but gentle backbone and a quietly lingering finish.

    René Sinard, the then owner, enjoyed a fan club amongst Rhône connoisseurs in Belgium where I lived for over 40 years. IMO the enthusiasm is fully justified on the evidence of the bottles I have drunk. The enthusiasm does not extend to the present owners since about 2000.

    2011 Mas Amiel Côtes du Roussillon Villages Pur Schiste - France, Languedoc Roussillon, Roussillon, Côtes du Roussillon Villages (6/19/2014)

    IMO this French Catalan wine really gives a lesson to yesterday's Montsant L'Altre de Can Blau from Spanish Catalonia made from the same cocktail of grape varieties though probably in different proportions. The main difference here is absence of burgeoning oak which allows the taste of the wine to come through and very good it is. Colour is deep red and the nose immediately shows dense dark fruit with a hint of liquorice. The palate is quite full and dense with lots of dark fruit laced with spice, mineral hints and again a little liquorice and has sufficient substance for the high alcohol to remain unobtrusive. I'll certainly buy more bottles unless the local Leclerc supermarket sells out before I get to it. Good. QPR! at €10.

    2012 Cellers Can Blau Montsant L'Altre de Can Blau - Spain, Catalunya, Tarragona, Montsant (6/18/2014)

    This is not my sort of wine. It is a disappointment but not a surprise because a heavy hand with oak is an unfortunate aspect of a lot of Spanish winemaking. Quite full bodied and there is probably some fine red and dark fruit lurking here and maybe Mediterranean spices but at this stage it was dominated by notes of dry caramel particularly towards the finish. Indeed I’m a little surprised that the claimed 6 months in the wood was enough to give such a displeasing result. If this were, say, Bordeaux, I would be fairly confident that the dry caramel would integrate with time but I have no idea whether this will happen with Montsant. Fair with ? future.
  8. In the past I used to avoid Grenache, quite often I would (wrongly) assume that they would be too alcoholic / unbalanced for my taste. With experience it is really clear that this is a super grape variety that can (when handled well) produce balanced, fresh wines even when the alcohol levels are rather high. Although rightly associated with the Southern Rhone, for me, some of the most exciting Grenache wines at the moment are coming from Catalunya, Priorat, Campo de Borja and Roussillon.
  9. [​IMG]

    I enjoyed the last glass of this rather delicious Spanish wine last evening, kindly given to us by the delightful Paola, one of the waitresses at Le Mistral in Nottingham on Tuesday. The fact that it was her night off made this even more of a gesture, as she obviously made a special journey to bring it for our little group. How wonderful is that?! :) Fagus Selecctión Especial 2012 Campo de Borja, which I believe is the top red from this bodega. 100% Garnacha, deeply-coloured and intensely aromatic, with a nose of bramble and cherry, balsam, leather, spice and a hint of eucalyptus. Rich and tannic, but with masses of spicy, dark fruit flavours, garrigue herbs and bitter dark chocolate, all of which is held together by the most wonderfully juicy, tangy, cherry kernel and citrus acidity. Even though very young, with a good few years (maybe even 10+) of evolution to come, it really is lovely now - a tangy, sweet-sour delight.
    Andrew Stevenson and John Simson like this.
  10. At least one of my favoured growers in Languedoc likes to describe Grenache as the "Pinot of the South", and in many ways, I think he is right. The best can be really rather elegant, and completely different from the often (but by no means always) soupy examples from the southern Rhone and the bigger, more tannic ones from Spain
  11. I'm starting to think Grenache is my favourite grape. I'd probably have cheap old vines Garnacha or good, mostly-Grenache CdR as 'house' wines, Celler de Capçanes Montsant Cabrida always available for special occasions, & just thinking about Cannonau puts a smile on my face.
  12. A lovely grape in the right hands.
    What an interesting topic, thread of the year at the eleventh hour :D
  13. 2009 Jalón Punto Y Coma Garnache (Calatayud, Spain)
    Sourced from old vine Garnacha from the villages of Acered, Alarba and Castejón de Alarba from mountainside slate vineyards 3000 feet high. Purple-colored, it has a nose of minerals, spices, earth, flowers and black cherry. Good grip, nice depth, ripe fruit, and good fruit balance. These slate vineyards give the wine a pronounced minerality and structure. Served by the glass at a downtown winebar.
  14. Good idea for a thread, Jonathan.

    As I've got Cellartracker open, here are my 2015 Grenache noir tasting notes, mainly from the Sud de France tasting in Manchester in October:

    • 2010 Hecht & Bannier Maury - France, Languedoc Roussillon, Roussillon, Maury (10/14/2015)
      Perfumed black fruits on the nose. This is a rather good, very attractive rich, sweet vin doux naturel. Chocolatey, blackberry, tarragon/anise notes.
      Quite precise & focused on the palate, though a bit spirity on the finish. But that's in check. Very long. (89 pts.)
    • 2011 Hecht & Bannier Côtes du Roussillon Villages - France, Languedoc Roussillon, Roussillon, Côtes du Roussillon Villages (10/14/2015)
      Quite restrained, juicy black fruit on the nose.
      Silky texture. Elegant. Ripe fruit, yet elegant. (88 pts.)
    • 2013 Château Aiguilloux Corbières Fantaisie - France, Languedoc Roussillon, Languedoc, Corbières (10/14/2015)
      80% grenache; 20% syrah.
      Attractive, simple, direct nose with fresh black fruit.
      Light, fresh and tasty. Good balance. Good, easy drinking. (87 pts.)
    • 2014 Rocca Maura Vin de Pays du Gard Effet Mer - France, Languedoc Roussillon, Languedoc, Vin de Pays du Gard (10/14/2015)
      A very, very pale pink.
      Light strawbery-peach fruit on the nose.
      Nicely rounded, easy and in its own style. Very feminine.
      Drink in the garden in the sun. By the gallon. (87 pts.)
    • 2013 Casa Mariol Garnatxa Negra Terra Alta Negre Jove - Spain, Catalunya, Tarragona, Terra Alta (2/23/2015)
      There is some lovely, attractive, soft red fruit on the nose. And the palate follows in the same vein. Easy, delicious and fun, but with sufficient interest not to be mere whimsy. (89 pts.)
    • 2002 La Cave de l’Abbé Rous Banyuls Hélyos - France, Languedoc Roussillon, Roussillon, Banyuls (2/6/2015)
      Dark brooding purple colour, with no youth evident.
      Gorgeous nose: rich, chocolatey, cherry and blackberry fruit. There's a lovely fresh raspberry note in there too. None of that feeling of spirituosity that can often be present on the nose of fortified wines.
      Luscious velvety palate. Initially, a combination of the mouthfeel and the smell and the sweetness makes it feel a little portlike, but that soon recedes, and you get much more of an essence of grenache character. A stunning wine and a classic example of how all fortified red wine are *not* like port. (95 pts.)
    • 2013 Michel Coullomb Vin de Pays du Gard Domaine Saint Etienne Perserose - France, Languedoc Roussillon, Languedoc, Vin de Pays du Gard (10/15/2014)
      70% grenache noir; 20% syrah; 10% carignan noir. 14% abv
      A slightly curious nose. Quite peppery, ripe berry fruit.
      Bright, easy drinking. Somewhat sub-Rhône/Rhône-lite. Nice balance. Very easy drinking. (87 pts.)
  15. Fagus is a brilliant wine, quite typical of Campo de Borja. Bodegas Aragonesas also produce a Garnacha from hundred year old vines which is given a short time in French oak, it's lovely when young but given a couple of years it's even better when the oak has resolved somewhat.
  16. Good idea for a thread. Here's one I opened today...


    Translucent garnet red colour. The nose is all raspberries - fresh fruit, framboise & raspberry jam when you warm it in a pan! There's some dried garrigue-type herb notes too that add interest. The nose is appealing enough but seems quite simple today. Palate has really good acid cut but the framboise character is very strong here. Lightweight tannins, core of delicate sweetness, decent length. Overall, interesting and enjoyable but simple. But 100% Garnacha Rioja is a good curiosity, so pleased to have given it a go. I have one more bottle - it doesn't seem like a keeper, but I'm open to views - any thoughts?
  17. The `09, as reported on the old forum, was WOTN at a recent Rioja tasting downtown.
  18. Mrs E's favourite grape. Excellent when done well. Where's Mr Wilkins?
  19. Wasn't that the regular Contino Reserva, Bob? 100% Rioja Garnacha from Contino is an interesting curiosity just like 100% Rioja Graciano. Incidentally I am surprised that they are able to claim DOC Rioja with these 100% bottlings.
  20. Not my favourite grape.

    My favourite two from the last year, both elegant and on the lighter side of the spectrum, I think:

    Domaine Lupier El Terroir (Navarra)
    David Sadie Grenache

    Neither from the S Rhone. Hmm. No surprises there, somehow...

    Interesting that the Fagus is so admired and the Tres Picos so hated!
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2016
  21. I've had mixed experiences with Grenache, with the poor ones being overblown and alcoholic. However a recent one at Castle Terrace restaurant in Edinburgh was one of the best I've had - a Cotes du Rhone Villages Rasteau 2000 from Domaine Gourt de Mautens. I'm not even sure I had ever had a 15 year old CdR Villages wine before and this had many years ahead of it. It was a blend of a number of ed CdR grapes but, as Grenache Noir was listed first, I'm assuming it is dominant in the blend. It had lovely mature red fruit flavours with some fine, resolved tannin and a pure, mineral finish with lovely acidity. Shame I haven't been able to find for sale in the UK.
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2016
  22. Jon recommended Grenache with fish & chips. I tried it (with a relatively light Spanish one) and very much agreed. One Block would also be ideal.
  23. I'm a fan of the Lupier too Mark although it's interesting that it's generally in Spain that you see it more without its sidekicks.

    This may be better in a Mourvèdre thread but it really came home to me drinking a Luberon red (GSM) next to a bottle from the Minervois (GS) that the brambly nature of the latter seems to be due to the lack of the Mourvèdre in the blend. I liked them both but the M in the GSM certainly seems to soften and round out the wine.
  24. I liked this a lot when I tasted it a few years ago. It's better than the 09, probably because of the cooler vintage.
    I have no idea on ageing but my instinct would be to drink in the medium term.

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