The SOMM Journal

December 2017 / January 2018

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Page 44 of 124

44 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } DECEMBER/JANUARY 2017/2018 { grape variety } POP QUIZ: What noble European grape variety can produce wines of virtually every style, among them thirst-quenching spar - klers; plump, mineral-driven whites; creamy, watermelon-kissed rosés; ruby-toned or darkly-spiced reds; and luscious fortified dessert wines? Hint: It's one of the world's oldest and most widely-planted cultivars, a grape that splendidly channels the nuances of its Mediterranean terroir and also hap - pens to produce one of the most food- friendly wines in the world. The answer should come as no surprise (or perhaps it will!). Garnacha—also known as Grenache in France—is no stranger to being overlooked and underestimated. While many sommeliers and wine lovers will recognize the variety as a stalwart workhorse and ensemble player in Côtes du Rhône, Châteauneuf-du- Pape, and GSM blends, a new generation of winemakers in the Aragón and Catalonia DOs of eastern Spain, as well as the Roussillon region of southern France, seek to cast the grape in an attention-grabbing, award-winning starring role. By restricting yields, preserving and nurturing old vines, and balancing tradition with modern viticultural and vinification techniques, these producers are steadily emancipating the grape from its (some - times dodgy) reputation as a blending com- ponent. Instead they are crafting innovative, high-quality varietal wines of exceptional character, concentration, and finesse. Even the venerable Robert Parker has taken notice, writing in The Wine Advocate that "Grenache has basically been disregarded for the last century," noting that in recent years he's found himself "buying more and more Grenache wines." Decades of wine experience or a famous palate are certainly not prerequisites to taste that today's European Garnacha/ Grenache wines hit all the right notes. From versatility to value, from simple refresh - ment to profound complexity, these "new wines from old vines" often overdeliver for their price points. Sopexa Senior Account Manager Bertrand Blanchez says the mar- vel of European Garnacha/Grenache is that many of the grapevines are ancient, yet they yield wines at affordable prices. "Gnarly, 100-year-old bush vines are common, but many wines retail for $8 to $15," he adds. "Where else can you experience this? These are truly great values!" The newfound accolades and appre - ciation for the grape, as well as increased sales in the United States—up by 34 percent in five years, according to Nielsen A Wine for Every Occasion GARNACHA/GRENACHE IS THE NEW HIT GRAPE FROM THE OLD WORLD by Cliff Rames PHOTO COURTESY OF WINES OF GARNACHA

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