Up until the 1970s, French winemakers and English wine writers perpetuated the idea that certain grapes were “noble,” that is, they made wine superior to that of “ordinary” grapes. Not surprisingly, these were all grapes that grew in France’s major regions – Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Merlot, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc. Although Riesling made and still makes great wines in France, in this rating scheme, the Riesling nod went to Germany. This was at a time when Germany was considered second only to France as a producer of great wines.
By the early 2000s, however, fans of Grenache or Garnacha had convinced pretty much everyone that the grape was far from ordinary, that it could and did make great wines in many locations either as a varietal or as a blend, especially in Chateauneuf-du-Pape. So you fans of “Gre,” “Gar” and “Can,” we hear you! This Dozen has several wines worthy of your attention.
Above photo courtesy of Chêne Bleu.
NV Château de Saint Cosme “Little James” Basket Press Jeune Solera Vin de France ($14). An unusual wine in many ways – as a solera that is refreshed and withdrawn annually, it can’t be vintage-dated (although it does have a bottling year, in this case, 2019), and it can’t be called Rhone because it’s outside the rule book. But is all Grenache, and is also enjoyable, like eating dried blackberries with a little garrigue on the side.
2018 Borsao “Three Picos” Campo de Borja Garnacha ($17). A balanced combo of juicy raspberry, barrel notes and smooth tannins.
2018 Yalumba Barossa Bush Vine Grenache ($18). A passive/aggressive wine with creamy cherry and raspberry flavors but with a kick that seems stronger than the 14.1% alcohol stated on the label.
2019 Argiolas “Costera” Cannonau di Sardegna ($19). Grenache is known as Cannonau in Sardinia, and this one is crisp but flavorful with both fresh and dried raspberry tastes and makes a great companion for dishes with tomato sauce.
2018 Château de Rouanne Vinsobres ($29). From the lower Rhone Valley, it is very fresh and lively with vibrant raspberry fruit and bright finishing acidity.
2017 Alto Moncayo “Veraton” Campo de Borja Garnacha ($31). This is a delicious wine from a region just south of Rioja– silky textures combined with creamy cherries and raspberries and pleasant dusty tannins. Decant for a couple of hours if you have time.
2018 Belden Barns “Epiphany” Sonoma Mountain Grenache ($50). Just a lovely wine – very granular, more like eating fresh raspberry than drinking them, with its fruitiness tempered by a Rhone-like earthiness. It lingers tantalizingly on the palate.
2012 Chêne Bleu “Abelard” 2012 ($86). From the mountains east of Avignon, this Grenache (85%) and Syrah blend is a generous wine with exotic spices and lots of red fruits – red raspberries and strawberry jam – with good tannins and a long aftertaste of fruit essence.
And now to the rest of the interesting wines in our Dozen:
2020 Concha y Toro “Frontera” Central Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($6). Don’t let the price scare you off – it has tangy fruitiness of cassis and blackberry with some old-fashioned herbaceousness to match.
2019 Trivento Mendoza Malbec Reserve ($11). Full of fresh, rounded cherry/berry fruits, mildly assertive with a finishing crispness.
2017 Beronia Rioja Crianza ($14). A lean, lightly structure wine that shows most of its flavors – tart berries, a little cream, some smoke – in the finish.
2018 Details Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon ($36). Concentrated dark fruits, especially blackberries, with a touch of sweetness and well-integrated tannins.
Prices listed are generally SRP or from wine-searcher.com. As more wineries are now shipping direct-to-consumer, check the winery website if you can’t find a bottle in your retail store.