These top 10 producer lists are always a challenge. The challenge is not finding 10 producers, but rather whittling down a list to 10 and settling on the criteria one uses.
In truth, I failed miserably at this project. Eventually I just had to surrender and develop two lists, one for the best values and another for my favorite wines. There is actually some overlap between the two lists, a great producer of Chateauneuf-du-Pape for example can produce a wonderful Cotes du Rhone as well.
So in my selection process, simply making great wine was a fundamental requirement, but producing wines with a certain typicity and consistency were traits that I also weighed heavily. Ultimately when it came right down to it, some value reigned supreme when compiling both of these lists. Not value as in who provides the best inexpensive wine, but rather value ss in who provided the best bang for one’s buck.
With that in mind, I am comfortable finding values across a broad price spectrum. These wineries are some of the most renowned producers of Grenache and Grenache-based wines.
If you’re looking for an iconic producer of Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Beaucastel has to be on your list. Even though it is a wine that is typically comprised of a bare 30% Grenache, though more in certain vintages, I’m including it on this list.
Chateauneuf-du-Pape is inextricably linked to Grenache and Beaucastel makes good use of it, allowing it to be the flesh that fills out their blend. Mourvedre is the other main component here, blended in with all the other allowable varieties for Chateauneuf, but the Grenache is so fundamental to the region that I think I can get away with this choice. I’m ready for all the dissent that’s headed my way!
If you’re looking for a Chateauneuf that expresses the elegance of the region, Charvin is your wine. While Beaucastel is often wild and gamy, Charvin, with about 80% Grenache, is lighter and brighter, brimming with fresh berry fruits and delightful on release, though it does have the ability to age quite well.
One of the reasons I’ve started this list with a trio of Chateauneuf producers is simply because they can help illustrate Grenaches’s various expressions. From the light, elegant style of Charvin to the often brooding, tough, old-school expression of Vieux Donjon. With about 75% of the blend comprised of Grenache, it’s a little surprising that Vieux Donjon can be so dark and so tough in its youth, but of course that reticent is just grumpy adolescence.
With some age, Vieux Donjon absolutely explodes with amazing aromatics: herbal and leathery, full of dried fruit and soil. It’s a wine that speaks as much about terroir and hands-off winemaking as it does about Grenache, but that’s part of the beauty of this wine.
Domaine Santa Duc-$35
Moving along from Chateauneuf, the next stop for any Grenache lover has to be Gigondas, where the wines tend to be blended like in Chateauneuf, but somehow speak more of Grenache.
Domaine Santa Duc produces a full line of Gigondas, though the one most commonly encountered must be their Tradition bottling, which relies on 75% Grenache for its core. Much like the Vieux Donjon, the wines of Santa Duc tend to be a bit tough, very traditional and in need of aging, but with several years on them they blossom to reveal a rich, peppery, leathery accented palate full of fruit and silky tannins.
Domaine du Cayron-$30
While the Gigondas of Domaine du Cayron is another traditionally produced wine, like the aforementioned Santa Duc it manages to offer yet another expression. Still distinctly age worthy, these wines tend to offer a blacker fruit profile with more earth and mineral accents to the fruit.
This is old school Gigondas. When it’s not letting you enjoy the fruit that 70% Grenache supplies, it puts you in the mind of old barns, books and butcher shops! Truly a compelling wine and a wonderful expression of Gigondas at that.