Just a pub wine? Ideal with the blackboard steak and ale pie blackboard special and nine chips in a beer tankard?
The go-to-gulpable-garnet down at your local gastro pub to soak up the microwaved goulash and the kids’ left-over spag bog? Any old Côte du Rhône to mask the burnt Shepherd’s Pie, de-congeal the macaroni cheese and sluice away the fiery chilli con carne.
Something peppery and Rhone-ish to ameliorate the bland, rock hard, been-around-a-while Red Leicester regional cheese platter.
Grenache (or something Pinot Noir-esque) is often chosen merely as a change from Syrah, Merlot, Pinor Noir and Cab.
And as camouflage.
Its brought out at family dos – where there are no guests to impress – to offset a badly cooked slow roast and for its garrigue-like herbals to cover up disastrous first time daubs, debut tangines and catastrophic cassoulets.
When a thick-skinned, full-bodied, drought-resistant, alcohol-intensive Australian appears at a dinner party, it usually means the chef has cocked up or not really tried and there is very probably already another bottle breathing in the kitchen.
For many, Grenache is an annual treat. The Domaine Du Vieux Telegraph Chateauneuf-du-Pape blend is still the trophy Christmas wine with the Costières de Nîmes and Priorat waiting in the wings. And Tavel rose to keep the palate cleansed and educated until New Year’s Eve.
Majestic provides has an excellent du Papes portfolio starring E.Guigal, Aimee Arnoux, Domaine du Pere Caboche, Famille Perrin 2018 Les Sinards and David Finlayson’s South African Herb Garden.
Grenache suffers from being one of the most widely planted of wines. It is grown in five out of seven continents. Whether Grenache Noir, Garnacha Tinta, Garnatxa, Lladoner, Tinto Aragones, Cannonau (from the monocepage of Sardinia), Granaccia or Tocai Rosso, Grenache is a very old, widespread grape variety giving a powerful taste concentration.
We all remember out first taste of leather and tar.
Lenka Sedlackova MW, Senior Brand Manager at Bancroft Wines, says:
“Whenever I come across a steadfast Pinot Noir drinker, I love to turn their attention to Grenache (or Garnacha as it is known in Spain. There are many stunning wines offering incredible value. Like the spicy and mineral wines from Sierra de Gredos, or supremely fresh and structured mountain Garnachas from Aragon. La Montesa Crianza, Palacios Remondo 2019 would be one of my recommendations.”
Seek out also Berry Bros Dom Gauby Grenache Blanc and Gris Coume Gineste 2018 as well as more delicate red heavyweights.
Brambly berry-flavoured to the plum end of the spectrum, with their generic oregano notes, there are subtle Grenaches – both blended and varietal – like the toasted caraway seed 2017 Angove Warboys Vineyard Grenache, the all-spice earthiness of Belden Barns “Epiphany” Grenache Sonoma Mountain, the bouillon savouriness of Hickinbotham Clarendon Vineyard Elder Hill and the big, cracked pepper hit Kimsey Ballard Canyon.
2018 Yalumba Samuel’s Collection Bush Vine Grenache Barossa, Australia is an outstanding Grenache with a note of chocolate-covered orange peel.
Yangarra High Sands Grenache McLaren Vale, Australia is made from sand-based soils cradle vines planted in 1946. Its aromatic strength and complexity will camouflage any minor culinary gaffes or oversights.
Australia’s McLaren Vale is undoubtedly currently producing the best Grenache expressions. As the Barossa Valley.
Ian Hongell of Torbreck and Kevin Glastonbury of Yalumba are masters of their craft. Grenache is believed to have arrived at Yalumba as part of the celebrated 1832 Busby Collection portion entrusted into the hands of Yalumba’s founder, the British brewer, Samuel Smith, to propagate.
Smith, from Wareham in Dorset, came to Adelaide in 1849, worked for London banker and merchant and fruit grower, George Angas. Three years later, he returned from the gold fields with enough money to buy additional land and plant more vines.
Yalumba, Australia’s oldest family-owned winery, now grows Grenache over two vineyards and works with seven grower families in the famous wine-making valley. Grapes from the coveted Tri-Centenary vineyard along with several special old bush vine vineyards go into the wine.
The Tri-Centenary Vineyard in the north of Vine Vale was purchased by Yalumba in 1999. In one block of the vineyard there are 820 gnarly old Grenache bush vines first planted in 1889. The ancestor vines give small quantities of exceptional grapes which merge as the single vineyard Yalumba, The Tri-Centenary Grenache.
The Steading is Torbreck`s signature wine. The 2019 vintage is made from a blend of 60 per cent Grenache, 21 per cent Shiraz and 19 per cent Mataro from vineyards planted in the 1960’s. The Steading is a collection of 45 different sources of fruit, from Torbreck’s own vineyards and from growers on a share-farming basis. The grapes are vinified separately and blended once their individual virtues have been assessed. The wine is then matured for 20 months on fine yeast lees in large French oak foudres.
Torbreck Hillside Vineyard Grenache 2016 comes from most southerly owned Torbreck vineyard in the Barossa Valley, north of Lyndock, the equally low yielding vines date to 1949.
Grenache was one of the first varieties planted in the Barossa yet was considered the ‘workhorse’ grape with little recognition. Now the grape planted in Australia by a brewer is grown everywhere. And appreciated in every way by cooks, good and bad. Grenache is a versatile and very forgiving wine.
The only thing it won’t disguise is the smoke alarm going off.
Kevin Pilley is a former professional cricketer and chief staff writer of PUNCH magazine. His humour, travel, food and drink work appears worldwide and he has been published in over 800 titles.
Photographs courtesy of Torbreck Vintners and Yalumba