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Grenache – the unsung hero of winemaking

Fri 11 Sep 2009 15:13

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Grenache is often overlooked in the world of winemaking but can produce a beautiful wine.

As the main grape of Chateauneuf-du-Pape and Cotes du Rhone, Grenache is of major importance in southern France and northern Spain (where it is known as Garnacha), and is one of Australia's key varieties.

The grape also makes lovely sweet wines in the south of France, called Banyuls and Maury, and has traditionally been the base for some excellent sweet wines from Australia.

It often appears under various synonyms all over the word, including Alicante and Cannonau.

The Grenache grape makes very juicy wines, which have flavours of red berry fruits and often a hint of pepper and spice.

The sweet wines made from Grenache are mostly fortified – made sweet by stopping the fermentation when there is still some sugar in the wine that hasn’t yet been converted to alcohol, by adding brandy to the fermentation tanks.

This raises the alcohol to a level where the yeast stops working and the resulting wines usually end up with between 18 per cent and 20 per cent alcohol. They are great for chocolate desserts and rich desserts like sticky toffee pudding.

Here are Tom’s top Grenache picks:

1. Salduba, Garnacha 2006, Spain, priced at £4.99 from Waitrose

This Grenache - or Garnacha - as it is known in Spain – is from thirty-year-old "bush vines" that grow without being trained on wires. It is a modern, fresh style of un-oaked red wine, that has flavours of red cherries and spice.

This selection goes well with turkey, roast chicken or lamb as well as sausages and mash.

2. Willunga, 100 Grenache 2006, Australia, priced at £7.99 from Sainsbury's
This wine is from the McLaren Vale region of South Australia. It’s a fairly big, creamy, but elegant red with an almost Chateaneuf-du-Pape character and seems lighter than its hefty 14.5 per cent alcohol.

With tasting cues of peppercorns, red plums and raspberries, this wine goes really well with dishes including casseroles, grilled meats and barbecues.

3. Grant Burge, 10 Year Old Tawny, Australia, priced at £15.00 from WoodWinters, Bridge of Allan and Edinburgh
This is a fortified wine (which means it had some brandy added during the winemaking), a bit like a Port or Banyuls, and it is very traditional for Australia to use Grenache as a base for such wines. This wine has flavours of beautifully mellow fruit, but fantastic intensity and this is a great price for this quality – it’s a delicious wine!

There are rich flavours of raisins, walnuts and cappuccino or coffee beans in this wine, and it goes nicely with Christmas pudding, dark chocolate or coffee desserts.

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