All About Grenache . . .

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As many of you know, I am quite passionate about rhone varieties in general. I believe there is more ‘variety’ in these varieties than in most others, and they tend to be ‘underdogs’ in today’s wine market, something I can appreciate as I’ve always been a fan of ‘the underdog’.

The Connoisseurs’ Guide to California Wines recently posted a blog post about Grenache entitled ‘Next Big Thing or Another Passing Fancy’ and I was intrigued by the thoughts put forth by Stephen Eliot, the author. He expressed his love for the variety, but his ‘frustration’ on not seeing it get more enthusiastic support from the public. Read his post here.

He ponders whether this lack of support is due to the fact that the wine is currently made in so many different styles that consumers can’t ‘understand’ it easily.  Or whether it is because it tends to be a blending grape and rarely stands on its own. Finally, he wonders out loud whether or not Grenache ‘is a varietal capable of real greatness, of complexity and depth that will rival that of the best Cabernets, Pinot Noirs and Syrahs . . .’.

I think these are all valid points, and ones that need to be discussed further. To me, the real issues are as follows:

  • Most consumers have not been exposed to the variety on its own often enough, and therefore more exposure and education has to occur. Go to a Rhone Rangers event and taste these wines – in fact, there will be a seminar devoted to the variety at the next event in early April.
  • Many ‘grenaches’ out there tend to be blends, even those labeled as ‘grenache. When winemakers blend syrah or other varieties into Grenache to ‘give it more structure’ or ‘to add the color missing in the variety’, they, to me, mask the underlying beauty the variety brings forth. Why is it okay to do this with Grenache but NOT okay to do this with pinot noir?
  • Many domestic Grenache producers are starting to price themselves out of the market for these wines, even before there is much of a market. Pricing needs to be kept at reasonable levels for consumers to be willing to give them a shot.
  • Winemakers, in my opinion, need to take a more ‘hands off’ approach to ‘tweaking’ these wines. Lay off the new oak, which will oftentimes cover up what the variety brings to the table rather than ‘adding’ to it. Understand that these wines will tend to be a bit higher in alcohol than other varieties because their skins are incredibly tough and bitter and you have to have the patience to wait to pick until the skins soften.

I would love to hear your thoughts on domestic grenaches and what might be done to shine more light on the variety and expose it to more folks.

Cheers!

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Blinded By The Cab . . . or Merlot . . . . or Pinot . . .or Chardonnay . . .

Dark-Clouds

I attend dozens of wine tastings each year, featuring all different types of wines. Most of the events I attend where my wine is being poured feature domestic wines, sometimes from a specific region and sometimes featuring certain varieties.

Most of the time, those in attendance seem to be pretty knowledgeable and ‘open’ about trying what I have to offer, but not always.

I poured at an event recently where at least a dozen people came up, looked at the bottles that I had on display, and then asked whether I had a cabernet sauvignon, or perhaps a merlot, or maybe a pinot. In all three cases, I said I did not, that I did not produce those varieties, but that I had a number of other wines that they may want to try.

In every case, they said thanks but no thanks and walked away. I was able to ‘grab’ a few before moving on and asked if they might be interested in trying the syrahs, grenaches, etc. that I was pouring.  No thank you, I was told over and over, I don’t know what those are.

It’s certainly easy to get overwhelmed at wine tastings, especially tasting where there are dozens of wineries pouring north of 100 wines or more in total. And I can certainly respect those that are ‘on a mission’, only searching out specific varieties or regions to compare and contrast all that are there.

In the cases I mentioned, though, it had more to do with ‘familiarity’ than it did to a specific tasting ‘strategy’. It surprised me quite a bit, because I look at wine tastings as an opportunity to not only reinforce what I believe I like, but to ‘challenge’ myself by trying those things I don’t ‘think’ I’ll like, based on previous experiences with a specific producer, a variety, or a region. To me, that’s one of my favorite parts of a tasting.

What kinds of strategies do you employ at larger wine tastings that may have dozens of producers or more and that you might find 100+ wines at? I’ll be awaiting your replies (-: