By The Glass
Grenaches bring exotic qualities
TODAY I'd like to introduce the grape variety of grenache. The red version, grenache noir, is frequently used in red-wine blends in southern France, the southern Rhone Valley of France and parts of Spain.
Grenache noir usually displays bright, very juicy, ripe-red fruit character. Some experienced tasters have told me that this red fruit character reminds them of cherry Lifesavers or Red Whip candy.
On the palate, grenache noir is usually ripe, lush and rounded.
Some of the more interesting renditions:
2003 Domaine de la Janasse Cotes-du-Rhone ($10): This highly revered French estate produces this sensational value from an old-vine parcel, quite near the Chateauneuf-du-Pape appellation in the southern Rhone Valley. The 2003 is gamey, earthy, peppery and wildly rustic, with lots of flavor and depth carrying through on the palate. I recommend it for those looking to stock up on a great red value. In this price range, it doesn't get a whole lot better.
2003 Domaine Catherine le Goeuil "Cairanne Les Felsch" ($16): Here is one of the hottest new properties of the southern Rhone Valley. This estate is one of the leaders in au naturale vineyard practices and winemaking. Yet nothing is compromised in search of quality. Cairanne is a relatively unknown village, which is why you can buy this absolutely delicious, ripe, soulful, mystic, exotically spiced grenache-based red for so little. If the label said Chateauneuf-du-Pape instead, it would cost $50 a bottle -- and I would still buy some.
2004 Kenneth Crawford Grenache "Larner Vineyard" (about $30): This is one of the finest grenaches produced outside of France. It certainly is full of the ripe red fruit character and white pepper nuances I associate with this grape variety. But most of all, I love the wonderful texture and balance of this full-flavored red. It has a roundness and deliciousness that keeps making me go back for another glass. This is a wine of very limited availability, so find one soon, while there is still some left.
Once in awhile you'll run across white grenache wines. The most intriguing examples are produced from one or two mutations of the red version, namely grenache blanc (white) and grenache gris (gray).
A terrific example of how delicious and interesting such wines can be is the 2003 Domaine Lefage "Cotes du Roussillon" ($11). This southern French specialty has subtle, fragrant floral nuances intermingled with peach and pineapple -- all delicately exotic. There is also a creamsicle quality and an oak presence, which doesn't take anything away from the wine's uniqueness. This is an excellent white-wine value to have around all of the time.
Chuck Furuya is a master sommelier and a partner in the Sansei restaurants.
This column is a weekly lesson in wine pairing written by a rotating panel of wine professionals. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org