International Grenache Day
A most dignified grape: Garnacha, aka Grenache, Cannonau, Alicante, Lladoner... Long the most widely planted red grape in the world, Garnacha is still responsible for an incredible amount of wine, from drek to fine, and we'll always have at least a few of the best bottles to show off.
Lafage Cotes du Roussillon 'Centenaire' 2015
Composed of 80% Grenache (Blanc and Gris) from 100+ year old vines planted just a few kilometers from the Mediterranean Sea, this wine is a clear display of the virtues of ancient Grenache, and at $16 it's pretty much an unparalleled value (one should expect to pay fare more for fine white Grenache from tres vieilles vignes). The other 20% of this wine comes from young Roussanne vines. Grown organically and hand harvested, Most of the cuvee is aged in stainless steel tanks (70%) but new French oak to raise 30% of the final blend. Super clean and pure, there is not much evidence of oak, just hints of spiciness, it is quite fresh for a Mediterranean white, with notes of citrus and minerals keeping it vivacious through the finish.
Saladin Cotes du Rhone 'Loi' 2014
The Saladin family has made wine in the same spot in the Rhone Valley since 1422, and they've never used synthetic additives in their vineyards. Today, they are certified organic and make wines of extraordinary elegance and purity. Predominantly Grenache, with a bit of Carignan and Syrah, their 2014 Cotes du Rhone 'Loi' is a fine-boned and savory wine, with flavors of tart cherry and plum, anise, wild herbs and tobacco. Easy to drink, with lively acidity and soft tannins, it is approachable enough to make friends on its own, but it'll be pretty easy to pair (thinking chicken cacciatore or marbella).
Clos du Mont Olivet Cotes du Rhone 'Vieilles Vignes' 2016
Clos du Mont Olivet's 2016 Vieilles Vignes is predominantly composed of Grenache from sandy soils, which goes a long way toward explaining its uncommon finesse; Grenache on sand is a classic formula for fine, fresh wines (think Rayas). Raised in stainless steel and large old oak, the blend includes dollops of Carignan and Syrah. Exuberantly fruity, precise and pure, its berry flavors are layered and rich, but never jammy or sweet. Today it shows beautiful nuances of wild herbs, flowers, olives and spice, but it will be many years before the savory side of this wine really starts to take over. Five years should be enough to release some seriously delicious umami flavors, ten might be pushing it, but who knows... There's not a lot of Cotes-du-Rhone cellared past a few years, but then most Cotes-du-Rhone doesn't come anywhere close to this incredible beauty. You're going to want to taste this wine.
Birichino Grenache 'Besson Vineyard' 2016
Ancient vineyards are not uncommon in California, but usually you'll be looking at mixed plantings based on Zinfandel. Ungrafted Grenache planted in 1910 is a true rarity in California and we're marvelously lucky that Birichino does not charge more for this wine. Old vines tend to produce physiologically ripe grapes at lower sugar levels regardless of vintage conditions, a boon for those seeking elegant wines with moderate alcohol levels, especially when it comes to Grenache, a grape that naturally leans to the very ripe side of ripe. The Besson Vineyard's Grenache is planted on a north facing rocky site with sandy soils Birichino's 2016 Grenache is simply gorgeous: cranberry, blackberry, tart cherry, tart black plums, hints of white pepper, rosehips and hints of diverse herbs and spices... it is an elegant anomaly, more for those who love Pinot Noir than for those who are used to the more common "high-octane" style of Grenache.