John Paul Kaminga
Grenache: A Low ABV Wonder from 100+ Year-old Vine
Did you check out the virtual vineyard tour we mentioned a couple weeks ago? If you did, you may have noticed that the panelists kept mentioning old-vine grenache (unfortunately a rarity in California), and a particular vineyard farmed by the Besson family. This vineyard was not one of the subjects of the night, four other vineyards had the billing, but it seemed that it was just too exciting of a place not to keep mentioning. No surprise to me...
I have been following Birichino's Besson Vineyard Grenache since the 2013 vintage, and I have always found it to be a most remarkable wine. Planted un-grafted in 1910, dry-farmed, yielding tiny amounts of concentrated grapes, the Grenache from this vineyard could make a high-alcohol monster, but Birichino always crafts an elegant little angel. I love this wine in any vintage, but the cooler 2018 growing season yielded my favorite version yet. It is 13.5% alcohol and it is bright and tense, yet spicy and lush at the same time. It is a wonder!
.... oh and another wonderful thing: it is $28! A wine like this could easily be $50+. Most California wine at $28 is high-volume manipulated plonk. Birichino's Besson is a uniquely delicious monument to California's great viticultural heritage, and its price is astounding. Cheers to Birichino!
Birichino Grenache 'Besson Vineyard' 2018 - $28
There is just so little Grenache, in the entire world, like this. Low in alcohol, fully ripe, very clearly Grenache, yet fresh and elegant as fine Volnay. Aromas of strawberry compote, fresh ripe raspberry, kirsch, minty herbs, rosehips, raw red meat, a little dried orange peel and lavender. Tart and lively on the palate, and though liqueur and cooked fruit notes appear, it is ultimately quite refreshing. Herbal, floral, earthy, exuberantly fruity, it is dense and full of flavor but barely medium-bodied. Darker fruits develop with air, and the finish has plenty of dark plummy nuance alongside the dominant red fruits. Lots of spicy and herbal notes persist, entwined beautifully with the classic Grenache fruitiness. This is so well balanced, it will surely be worth following a decade or longer.
Thanks for reading!