The SOMM Journal

April / May 2018

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Page 83 of 108

{ }  83 Down in Atlanta, Chris Lodge, Sommelier and Manager at New American restaurant Atlas Buckhead, uses Châteauneuf-du- Pape's backstory to educate clients on Grenache. Noting that "no sales pitch is as effective" as the region's deep history, Lodge recounts the period when the papacy made its way to Avignon from 1309 to 1376 and acquired an immaculately- maintained vineyard. It produced stellar wines, but with great prestige came many imposters, causing the region to implement self-imposed regulations. Châteauneuf-du- Pape ultimately become one of France's earliest designated wine appellations and helped serve as the backbone for European wine classifications as a whole. Converting the Skeptics Despite its history, Grenache still faces challenges to its longevity in today's market. Sommelier Justin Timsit, head of Los Angeles sales for California-based Martine's Wines, says the abundance of over-developed and low-acidity expres - sions of Grenache—particularly those loaded with high alcohol—can make some sommeliers skeptical of the grape. His personal solution? Cooler climate regions. "Where I see Grenache really tak - ing off is in the cooler climates of California's Central Coast, and even the true Sonoma Coast where growers can manage ripe - ness," Timsit says. He names Pax Mahle's wines as some of the best Grenache he's tasted: "The vines are more 100 years old, and the concentration is intense, yet the wine still has incredible finesse and a back - bone of acid." As for Grenache-based blends, Timsit says no one does it better than Daniel Brunier at Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe in—where else?—Châteauneuf-du-Pape. "Every vintage is so dialed in," he says. "Even in riper vintages, the wines maintain a grace and elegance so seldom seen in the region of blockbuster alcoholic wines." When recommending Grenache, the sommeliers said it's imperative to note the widely-planted grape's regional differences and expressions. Lodge describes Old World Grenache as rustic and displaying ripe and dried red fruit aromas, with wines of the Rhône Valley tending to show more herbaceousness. On the other hand, the Garnacha of Spain—where the grape pre - sumably originated—produces full-bodied blends in the DOC of Priorat. In Australia, Grenache is generally blended with Syrah and Mourvèdre, giv - ing way to powerful, ripe cuvées with lots of raisination and high alcohol. "Grenache doesn't sell for Cabernet Sauvignon prices, meaning the winemaker is much less likely to sort out the underripe grapes and more likely to include stems in the fermenta - tion," Lodge explains. "This contributes to some very complex flavors in the wine ranging from sweet to tart." He adds that when sommeliers describe the flavors of Grenache to customers, it's important to "use keywords, such as 'ripe, silky, peppery, and herbal.'" The Full Spectrum On the retail front in New Orleans, Leora Madden, Owner of Pearl Wine Co., often notices that people love Grenache without even knowing it. She describes the variety as extremely versatile, "producing wines that can be as big or as understated as your palate desires." According to Madden, French Grenache— particularly from the Rhône—has always done well at Pearl. When buyers of Spanish reds seek something well made under $15, she immediately points them to Garnacha. "What's interesting is that in the last couple of years, I've also started to turn California red drinkers on to Grenache," Madden says, adding that her "go-to" recommendation is a Grenache blend from South Africa. Timsit similarly uses Grenache as a crossover for New World Pinot Noir drinkers looking for something fuller-bodied in style. Educating clients on the flexibility of Grenache in terms of food and wine pair - ings is also key to furthering its popularity. Lodge recommends Châteauneuf-du-Pape with grilled lamb and rosemary, which serves to highlight the meatiness and earthiness of the wine while complement - ing the distinctive flavor of the lamb. Timsit's favorite pairings include roasted duck, spe- cifically with herbal and pepper influences in the marinade. For Madden, however, simple is best: "red beans and rice or mac 'n' cheese." And when you're working with a grape that boldly exhibits a spectrum of flavor profiles all on its own, why complicate things? Chris Lodge, Sommelier and Manager for Atlas Buckhead in Atlanta, relies on the history of Châteauneuf-du-Pape to educate clients on Grenache. PHOTO CREDIT: PHOTO BY MIA YANKEL

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