The southern Rhône may be the source of the most illustrious Grenache on the planet, but the variety, of presumed Spanish origin, has made a home for itself in numerous locales all around the Mediterranean basin. Tasting Grenache, Garnatxa, Grannacia, Cannonau, or whatever you choose to call it across many regions, it quickly becomes apparent that this grape is a chameleon whose identity changes in accordance with the local conditions. From Catalonia up the Mediterranean coast of France into the Languedoc, Rhône Valley, and Provence, then sailing south to disembark on the shores of Corsica and Sardinia, Grenache is a vehicle for terroir in the same way that Pinot Noir so sensitively expresses the nuances of Burgundian soil. The three examples here demonstrate how the King of Mediterranean grape varieties so wonderfully excels at the power of transportation.
Historical records show that Cannonau has been cultivated in Sardinia for centuries; planted extensively, it is a major element of the island’s viticultural DNA. Some archaeological studies even suggest that Grenache may actually originate from Sardinia, not Spain. This example from Alghero, the ancient Catalan bastion on Sardinia’s northwest coast, is by far the most aromatic Grenache we import, with a sweet fragrance of flowers, ripe strawberry, and Mediterranean herbs. The warm, balmy flavors and silky touch make it a great match for an herb-crusted roast or the most delectable vestige of Catalan occupation: paella Algherese.
Chances are you know Grenache primarily from the southern Rhône: the reds of Gigondas, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Beaumes-de-Venise, etc. But this grape also plays a central part in many of the red blends from Corsica, often mixed with Niellucciu—Sangiovese’s Corsican twin—to yield wines that are excitingly distinct from those of the Rhône Valley. This rouge, for example, made up of 80% Grenache and 20% Niellucciu, is sunnier, a little more exuberant, and has a little more muscle than its relatives from the mainland, which are more often some variation of Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault, and Mourvèdre blends. Dip your nose into your glass and you might think it’s going to be a summertime quaffer. Once you take a sip, however, the salty, stony structure tells you you’re dealing with a serious wine that will be on an upward trajectory for another five years. Notes of black cherries, crushed raspberries, and a slight hint of black olive are accompanied by a grippy texture, asserting its untamed Corsican spirit.
Nestled deep in the foothills of the Cévennes mountains, the Terrasses du Larzac appellation is one of the Languedoc’s hidden treasures. The “forgotten vines” in question are old Grenache alongside Syrah and Carignan, poking out of a complex mosaic of soils at high elevation. Barrel-aged in a cool grotto hidden away in the forest, this wine marries the sunny influence of the south with chewy mountain tannins and a fresh streak of cool stone. The most age-worthy Grenache on this page, it can also be appreciated today for its youthful verve.
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