Australia is actually a pretty important producer of Grenache, which used to be produced for jug wines as well as dessert wines. With the retreat of those wines from the marketplace came a unique opportunity for Australian vintners: the opportunity to source amazing fruit from bush trained, old vine Grenache.
There are many producers who have taken advantage of this national treasure though no one has been more resourceful than Clarendon Hills, who have an amazing line-up of six distinct Grenache wines. The prices for these wines range from the affordable at right around $40 a bottle on up to $100. Personally my favorite is the Blewitt Springs Old Vine Grenache, which packs in a lot of Australian richness and intensity but remains soft and caressing, even if this is a bit of a fruit bomb!
Spain is the place to go these days for Grenache. There are amazing wines at almost every price point, but if you have to recognize one producer as really excelling with Garnacha it has to be Alto Moncayo. As is the case with Clarendon Hills, Alto Moncayo produces a variety of Grenache wines that span a wide price range, almost $20 to $140 in this case. Also similar to Clarendon Hills, my favorite wine happens to be in the middle as far as pricing goes.
Alto Moncayo’s straight Campo de Borja, as distinct from the top of the line Aquilon and the entry level Veraton, is a classic Spanish Garnacha. Laced with vanilla notes, it’s packed with jammy strawberry fruit in a rich, powerful style.
I would be remiss if I did not pay due attention to some home grown Grenache heroes, and Beckman is tops on my list.
Another producer of note is California’s Herman Story. Their wines tend to be cut from a different cloth, one that is heavy like flannel and black with red highlights. Herman Story Grenache, of which there are two versions, tend to be rather unabashedly California: tanned, healthy, big but not fat with lots to say, even if they do talk a bit slowly.
These are big wines and they are quite powerful and frankly thick on the palate, but at the same time they also do mange to express wonderful purity of fruit and maintain impressive balance.
Domaine du Mas Blanc-$35
Here we head back to France and fittingly end with a dessert wine! Yes, Grenache can be made into dessert wines. The most famous is Banyuls, the best wine to pair with chocolate, and my favorite producer is the famous Docteur Parce and his Domaine du Mas Blanc.
When made into a dessert wine, Grenache retains much of its richness and bright red fruit, adding in nuanced notes of chocolate and plums. The alcohol is relatively modest for a dessert wine and the texture is rich and smooth, with just a hint of tannin to help balance out the sweetness. It is a rare treat and a wonderful way to end both a meal and a look at Grenache!