Wine with Leslie Williams: Focus on an underappreciated grape

This week I’m focusing on Garnacha/Grenache, arguably the most important grape in France and Spain yet also a grape that is less known than it should be given that it only occasionally appears on wine labels.

The grape was assumed to be Spanish in origin for centuries (most likely Aragón) but some Italian researchers are now claiming Sardinia as its home (where it is known as Cannonau).

The grape has mutated many times over the centuries and is available in rouge, blanc and gris hues and has genetic connections with many old Spanish varieties including Verdejo and Airén, although no certain genetic parentage has been proven. 

Garnacha thrives in hot dry climates and pairs well in blends with grapes such as Monastrell/Mourvèdre, Syrah and Tempranillo. In Rioja it is the second grape after Tempranillo but in Catalonia it is the primary grape and is responsible for the best wines of Priorat (although Cariñena also plays a role). 

Garnacha Tinta is crucial to all that delicious regional Spanish wine under €15 from regions such as Tarragona, Penedès, Cariñena and La Mancha and many producers (and wine writers) now regret the replacing of old Garnacha vines with more fashionable Tempranillo.

Aside from Priorat, the most famous expression of Grenache Noir is in the Southern Rhône in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. 

In Châteauneuf it should be fat and rich, but do buy from a producer you know as the name is so famous now it is sometimes abused. The neighbouring Cru vilages of the Rhône can also show Grenache off wonderfully and you can buy Gigondas, Vacqueyras, Lirac, Cairanne, Rasteau, etc. with more confidence. 

At the lowest level in the region plain old Côtes-du-Rhóne is rarely anything other than pleasurable but expect lithe red-fruit freshness rather than density.

Grenache is also a primary grape in the Languedoc and Provence and is still the workhorse grape of the region. Cannonau di Sardegna is usually the most reliably tasty wine to be found in Sardinia. In Australia look to MacLaren Vale and watch for old vine versions from Chile and Argentina.

Grenache Blanc is the main grape in White Châteauneuf-du-Pape where it has floral aromas and good density allowing the better wines to age.

BEST VALUE UNDER €15

Honora Vera Garnacha Calatayud, Spain — €10

Stockist: SuperValu

This is on sale until March 6 as part of SuperValu’s Spanish sale and is a saving of €4. From a 700m to 900m site and a mature vineyard in good value Calatayud in Aragón this has light spicy aromas mixed with red fruits, vibrant and fresh on the palate with pleasing texture and a solid fruity-juicy character.

Grenache ‘le Paradou’, Chateau Pesquié, Rhone, France — €14.95

Stockists: JJ O’Driscolls, Cinnamon Cottage Rochestown, Ardkeen, Bradleys, www.searsons.com

This is the entry level wine of Château Pesquié located at the base of the Ventoux Mountain in the Rhône – all their wines are worth trying. Ripe pleasing spicy red and black fruits, soft and supple and perfect for an omelette or a pizza.

Ramón Roqueta Garnacha 2015, Catalunya, Spain — €14

Stockists: Mitchells CHQ, Glasthule and Avoca Kilmacanogue or via www.mitchellandson.com

From the generic Catalonia appellation where red grenache/ garnacha is king although for white wine production garnacha blanca does compete with Xarel-lo and other grapes. This has pristine floral, apricot and pear aromas, lovely texture and freshness with just enough acidity and length.

BEST VALUE OVER €15

Las Rocas Vinas Viejas Garnacha, Calatayud, Spain — €17.95-18.95

Stockists: O’Donovans, No. 21, Ardkeen Stores, McHughs, Independent NOffLA Off-Licences, Deveneys, Vintry, McHughs.

The label on this wine is changing so to clear stock it has been reduced by at least €5. Calatayud is often a source of value — this is from old Garnacha vines and has rich spicy fruit flavours and a floral violet character mixed with dark fruits. Rich and satisfying with good depth and character.

Domaine la Bouissière Gigondas, France — €33.95

Stockists: Bradleys, Cinnamon Cottage, Ardkeen Stores, 1 Pery Sq. www.searsons.com

This family estate is run by brothers Thierry and Gilles Faravel. Both their Gigondas and Vacqueyras are excellent and interesting to compare — this has a touch more voluptuousness. Ripe plum fruits and herbal touches mixed with bramble fruits and with shards of red currant.

Château Mont-Redon Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Rhône — €35.95

Stockists: O’Briens, World Wide Wines, 64 Wines, Independents

No discussion of Grenache is possible without mention of Châteauneuf-du-Pape and this is one of my favourites at the affordable end of the spectrum. Aromas of rich red berry fruits mixed with herbs, spices and plums, full flavoured and rich with warm dark fruits and lovely density and a supple richness.

- Contact Leslie Williams at wine@examiner.ie

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