Ancient wine grape finds a home with millennial drinkers.


This isn’t one of those “next great grape!” articles. People are drinking more Grolleau, period. It may have something to do with growing interest in the Loire Valley - a region that sat in the shadows of its ‘big brothers’ Burgundy and Bordeaux for decades.

The Loire Valley has been embraced by new wine drinkers (read: millennials). Its key grapes – Cabernet Franc and Chenin Blanc – are light and accessible. They are happy hour-friendly wines with a heritage. The days of deeming these wines ‘simple’ or ‘generic’ are over.

The more time we spend drinking Loire Valley wines, the deeper we go into its grape catalogue. Enter Grolleau.
Grolleau has been long-considered an esoteric grape. Current tastes have brought it to the fore. It delivers remarkable acidity and a sharp, refreshing edge. Easy-drinking light reds like Grolleau are everywhere right now. Many of these wines welcome a slight chill. As rich, high-fat dishes become special occasion meals, we require more wines suited to lighter fare. The way we both eat and drink as a society has changed.

Traditionally, Grolleau has been used to make Loire rosé. Anjou sub-appellation rosé tends to be off-dry. Touraine tends to be on the drier side. Varietal bottlings are becoming more popular but hard to find. High-acid Grolleau wines pop on the palate with a bouquet of taut red fruits. Look for a distant but distinct herbal note, too. Start here:

Bainbridge and Cathcart Vin de France Rouge aux Levres, any vintage.

These wines almost always sell out, so grab them when you can. British winemaker Toby Bainbridge and his Oklahoma-born wife Julie Cathcart acquired a few acres of Cab Franc and Grolleau just a few years ago.  The Grolleau vines themselves are between eighty and one hundred years old. The wines are natural, biodynamic, and organic. It is for this reason that no two bottles will be exactly the same, but I’ve never met a bottle I didn’t like. You can find one for about twenty bucks.

Catherine & Pierre Breton Rouge Grolleau 2015

My favorite part about this wine is alcohol content – just 10.4%. The older I get, the more I appreciate a low alcohol wine. The Breton family are proponents of the natural wine movement and apply these principals to their winemaking.  Carbonic maceration took place for 3 weeks in an open-top wood vat. This is a well-made wine well worth the $25 retail price.

Barton & Guestier Rosé d'Anjou
75% Grolleau, 25% Gamay

While varietal Grolleau is a hot commodity, the rosé is easier to find. There is so much sub-par rosé out there, but you really cannot go wrong with d’Anjou. This one is widely available and retails for just ten bucks.

Jean-Michel Gautier Touraine Rosé N.V.
100% Grolleau

Twenty grams of residual sugar render this one a brut – a perfect example of Grolleau from Touraine. Aged sur lies for twelve to eighteen months, this is a nice little Champagne alternative you can easily find for around twenty bucks. (Grolleau may just be the Pinot Meunier of the Loire. And varietal Pinot Meunier is a special thing.)

Grolleau is only grown in the Loire Valley, so they say. While it is hard to make absolute statements in the wine industry, I have seen nothing to prove otherwise. If it is true right now, I don’t believe it will be true for long.

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