Kelly J. Hayes: WineInk | AspenTimes.com

Kelly J. Hayes: WineInk

Kelly J. Hayes
Aspen Times Weekly

I hate to miss an anniversary, birthday, or big announcement, but I frequently do. Perhaps my mind is the proverbial steel trap and the important dates just slip through.

Last month I missed an event (though I think I have a valid, if somewhat ironic, excuse, but more on that later) that I surely would have written about. Yes, Sept. 23 was the second celebration of International Grenache Day.

Now I’ll bet you didn’t know that grapes have days. And you’re right, for the most part fruit in general and grapes in particular don’t have special days in which they are honored for the goodness they bring to the world. But there is a growing gathering of Grenache groupies who feel that it is high time that this delicious varietal gets its due and, dammit, they are going to do something about it.

Fortunately their desire to promote the virtues of Grenache, an ancient grape that has been enjoyed by generations dating back to at least the 1700s in Spain’s northern regions, coincides with the growth of social media. And the Grenache advocates are turning to tweets, Google Earth and Facebook postings to help advance their belief that Grenache should be the next hot grape.

International Grenache Day was a created at the Grenache Symposium, a collective of 270 representatives from 22 nations who met in June 2010 to discuss the grape and how to “blow it up,” to use an expression that is frequently heard in the virtual world. Bars, restaurants and individuals were encouraged to hold Grenache-themed events, post their location on the symposium’s website and then tweet about it. People could click on the location listings on the Google document and see the details of the event.

So up to date, so au currant, so tech savvy. The irony here is that the reason I did not write about International Grenache Day before it occurred is that the release I was emailed to promote it ended up in my spam folder, only to be found once I went to empty the last month of said spam.

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But enough about the travails of the technorati. The point is that some of the world’s best winemakers and journalists who share a love for Grenache are doing their level best to make it the next Shiraz. That is to say, a grape that becomes so in-demand that eventually it becomes a cliche. Clearly this whole story has much to do with marketing. After all, there is money to be made if the Grenache grape takes off. But the cause is rooted in the fact that Grenache is a great varietal that should by all accounts “blow up.”

Grenache can produce big wines that explode on the palate with flavors of cherries, currant, raisin and earth. They are exceptional with grilled foods, pizzas and flavorful pasta dishes. And they leave a deep ruby red stain on the lips. All good things.

Grenache has its origins in northern Spain but has become one of the world’s most widely planted red grape varietals. It shines in the southern Rhone region of France, where it is a principal grape of the dark, fruity, highly concentrated and frequently high-alcohol wines of Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Look for wines from the iconic Chateau de Beaucastel for great examples.

The Priorat region of Spain, which like the southern Rhone, is blessed with sunny warm days during the growing season, produces exceptional wines built on Grenache, though the grape is known as Garnacha there. Some say that the Garnacha from Alvarao Palacios L’Ermita vineyard may be the finest expression of the grape in all the world and they are priced in the stratosphere. But there are a number of other affordable offerings from Spain that are good examples as well. The Garnacha de Fuego from Catalayud, Spain, which sells for about $10 a bottle is a good intro to the grape.

Down Under, Grenache was more heavily planted than Shiraz in the warm and sunny climes before Shiraz became the hot thing. Look for wines from Clarendon Hills, a McLaren Vale (South Australia) producer who sources acres and acres of old Grenache vines that make juicy wines that rival the best. And here in the U.S., Doug Margerum and a cadre of Central Coast winemakers in California have joined the hue and cry as well in producing great wines from the Grenache grape. Margerum also makes a Vin de Pays Rose from Grenache that is an exceptional summer sipper.

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