Imbibe wine tasting: Grenache comes into its own

Imbibe Editorial

Imbibe Editorial

06 November 2018

Previously hidden in blends, more single-varietal Grenaches are hitting the UK. Clinton Cawood joins a panel of somms to look for star quality 

Grenache, Garnacha – call it what you will, it’s made itself at home both in Europe and further afield. But despite being planted in vast quantities, it has led a mostly quiet existence, overshadowed by big-name reds that often get star billing in the multi-varietal blends.

But winemakers have begun to pay this humble variety more attention in recent years. They’ve been tapping into its lighter side, letting it shine either in single-varietal wines or Grenache-dominated blends, and there’s greater appreciation of what its old vines, in particular, can do.

High time, we decided, to get a handle on what’s available to UK sommeliers.

Clinton Cawood, Imbibe; Michael Fiducia, Sorrel Restaurant; Mario Rosso, Pied à Terre; Elisa Soggia, Kai Mayfair;
Corina Stanila, La Dame de Pic, Four Seasons
Hotel at Ten Trinity Square

Average score: 70%

83 Hentley Farm, Old Legend Grenache 2015, Barossa Valley
‘Packed with cherries and red plums, as well as fresh mint, and some overall herbaceousness. This is light and dry on the palate, with some good acidity,’ ES. ‘Both red and dark berry fruits, with some blackcurrant leaf too. There’s vibrant acidity here, with good balance. A great accompaniment to lamb with artichoke puree,’ CS.
£39.27, C&C Wines, 020 3261 0929

80 Pax Aeterna, Barossa Valley Grenache 2017
‘Notes of fresh cherry and raspberry on nose and palate – a really well-balanced wine, with good length,’ CS. ‘This has some really appealing perfumed aromas with fresh cherry notes and a good, refreshing palate overall,’ MF.
£12.92, Enotria&Coe, 020 8961 5161

80 Robert Oatley, Signature G-17 2017, McLaren Vale
‘A lifted, perfumed nose of fresh cherries and roses lead to a subtle and elegantly-oaked palate with mocha and cocoa notes,’ MF. ‘Immensely light, both in colour and aroma, with delicate cherry notes on both nose and palate, with a bit of grip towards the finish. Appealing, and very versatile,’ CC.
£8.65, Hatch Mansfield, 01344 871800

78 Teusner Wines, Joshua GSM 2017, Barossa Valley
‘A nose reminiscent of cherry linctus leads to a balanced, rounded palate of ripe cherries and other red fruits,’ MF. ‘A substantial wine, particularly in this company, the nose is full and floral, leading to a juicy palate with some excellent and well-balanced acidity,’ CC.
£18.67, Hallgarten & Novum Wines, 01582 722538

73 Ministry of Clouds, Grenache 2016, McLaren Vale
‘Really good harmony between its various components, with complex fruit notes, some prominent acidity, and what is ultimately a delicate body,’ CS. ‘There’s a hint of sweetness on the palate at first, but there’s good balance throughout, with good concentration and some low tannins,’ MR.
£18.80, The Knotted Vine, 020 8616 2170

73 Ochota Barrels, The Fugazi Grenache 2017, McLaren Vale
‘Perfumed aromas of rose water and cranberries, leading to a soft and brisk palate, with a pleasant mouthfeel,’ MF. ‘Red cherries and a yeasty note on the nose lead to a palate that’s light, with low tannins. A different style of Grenache that you could even match with something like a tuna steak,’ MR.
£20.90, Indigo Wine, 020 7733 8391

68 Hentley Farm, The Marl Grenache 2015, Barossa Valley
‘Pale and fruity, with a dryness to the palate, which has some moderate acidity, and relatively low tannins too,’ ES. ‘This might look light, but it’s packed with fruit, funk and potpourri notes, with a real elegance to the palate, and some lifted red fruit too. A beautifully-structured wine,’ CC.
£9.99, C&C Wines, 020 3261 0929

67 Spinifex, Esprit 2014, Barossa Valley
‘Well balanced, with tannins and acidity all well combined, along with raspberries, cherries, strawberries and red plums,’ ES.
‘A substantial red-fruit nose, with some added interest from a subtle stalky note, leading to a light, elegant palate that’s juicy and packed with more red fruit,’ CC.
£17.46, Bibendum Wine, 0845 263 6924

Also tasted: Wirra Wirra, The Absconder 2016, McLaren Vale; David Franz, Grenache Noir 2015, Adelaide Hills; Spinifex, Papillon 2017, Barossa Valley

Average score: 75%

89 Le Plan des Moines, Châteauneuf-du-Pape ‘Les Charretons’ 2016, Rhône
‘This has lifted aromas of perfume and ripe, red fruits, leading to a fresh mouthfeel, great length and a wonderful finish,’ MF. ‘Cherry and blackcurrant leaf notes on the nose lead to very good acidity and crispy tannins on the palate, with great length,’ CS.
£22.00, Red Squirrel Wine, 020 3490 1210

85 Gérard Bertrand, Or & Azur Rouge 2016, Languedoc
‘Classic Grenache, with great fruit and acidity. Raspberry and cherry notes are dominant, but there’s some violet too and a grassiness,’ ES. ‘This opens with some meaty, savoury notes on the nose, leading to a palate with good structure and some length,’ MF.
£11.49, Hallgarten & Novum Wines, 01582 722538

76 Pierre Amadieu, Ventoux La Claretière 2016, Rhône
‘Sweet raspberries and a floral, perfumed element on the nose lead to a substantial, food-friendly structure on the palate, with good acidity and tannins and more berry fruit,’ CC. ‘Crunchy, fresh red and black fruit aromas are followed by a chewy, fruit-medley palate,’ MF.
£9.19, Champagnes and Châteaux, 020 7326 9655

74 Le Plan des Moines, Vacqueyras “La Cape” 2016, Rhône
‘An incredible nose, with intense dark-cherry notes, very strong and persistent fruit flavours, and a long finish,’ CS. ‘Dark berry flavours, along with an iron-like note on the palate, with a hint of spiciness. A great match for blue cheese and charcuterie,’ MR.
£14.40, Red Squirrel Wine, 020 3490 1210

74 Château Coupe-Roses, Bastide 2016, Minervois, Languedoc-Roussillon
‘Blackberries and black cherries as well as some sweet cinnamon spice, with some acidity and tannin on the palate, but with enough concentration to support it,’ MR. ‘Some farmyard notes and very fruity too, with notes of violet and raspberry, cherry and tobacco. This is a perfect match for fatty fish, duck or offal,’ ES.
£9.12, Bibendum Wine, 0845 263 6924

74 Domaine de la Janasse, Côtes du Rhône Rouge 2016, Rhône
‘Dark fruit aromas, as well as some fresh cherry notes, all leading to a well-rounded palate, with some good balance,’ MF. ‘An incredible body, with nice fruit character, including some plum notes and great complexity, with some high tannins,’ CS.
£10.12, Enotria&Coe, 020 8961 5161

66 Domaine Sainte Rose, Coquille d’Oc Rouge 2016, Languedoc-Roussillon
‘Blackberry and griotte cherries on the nose lead to a rich and pronounced palate with good concentration, just missing a touch of acidity to balance alcohol and tannins,’ MR. ‘Bright berry fruit with some spice to keep things interesting, leading to deeper fruit on the juicy palate, with just a touch of tannins and a return of that spicy element. Great value too,’ CC.
£8.11, Bibendum Wine, 0845 263 6924

64 Le Plan des Moines, Côtes du Rhône “La Borde” 2016, Rhône
‘This is lightly perfumed, but with some quite dark fruit notes too. On the whole, a dry and quite structured wine,’ MF. ‘Cherry and dark berry fruit notes, accompanied by delicate tannins that are really well integrated – a great one to match with Mediterranean food, like stuffed tomatoes or even a paella,’ MR.
£8.60, Red Squirrel Wine, 020 3490 1210

Also tasted: Domaine de la Graveirette, Côtes du Rhône 2015, Rhône Valley

Average score: 79%

74 Ramón Bilbao, Rosado 2017, Rioja
‘Strawberry, raspberry and rose notes lead to a fresh palate with good balance of acidity. Perfect for a sunny day, matched with grilled sardines,’ MR. ‘A balanced, delicate and refreshing wine with raspberry fruit, some blossom notes, and a grassiness too. The perfect style of wine to drink in the summer with some olives and crostini,’ ES.
£8.02, Enotria&Coe, 020 8961 5161

72 Ramón Bilbao, LaLomba 2017, Rioja
‘Light, elegant and sophisticated, but not lacking in fruit either. There’s some generous citrus notes contributing towards an appealing freshness on the palate,’ CC. ‘A beautiful floral bouquet on the nose, leading to notes of wild strawberries on both the nose and palate, and with a long finish. This would be a great match for crab and lovage,’ CS.
£15.11, Enotria&Coe, 020 8961 5161

90 Franck Massard, El Mago Organic Garnacha, Franck Massard 2016, Terra Alta
‘Deep red and black fruit aromas lead to a well-rounded, dark and brooding palate,’ MF. ‘Light and beautifully put together, this is
just what you want from Grenache, with vibrant red fruit, great acidity and some intensity on the palate. Definitely food friendly,
and with a fresh finish,’ CC.
£9.94, Enotria&Coe, 020 8961 5161

86 Acústic Celler, Ritme 2015, Priorat
‘There are well-integrated bramble fruit and cherry compote notes here, with a matching structure that’s soft and subtle,’ MF. ‘On the nose this is big, spicy and substantial, with a waxy character to it, leading to a juicy, fruity, blueberry palate. The finish is packed with berry fruit, supported by some good tannins that make this an excellent food wine,’ CC.
£15.40, Bibendum Wine, 0845 263 6924

81 Baigorri Garnacha 2013, Rioja
‘Some really well-extracted red fruit and blueberry notes, with a touch of floral and a liquorice note too, with some grip towards the finish,’ CC. ‘Complex and pronounced, with great balance between oak and fruit, and with some really good length. A perfect match for Iberico pork,’ MR.
£19.87, Bibendum Wine, 0845 263 6924

80 Bodegas Vivanco, Colección Garnacha 2014, Rioja
‘A very nice Garnacha that stands out with some aromas of rose and some high acidity, yet soft at the same time,’ ES. ‘This opens with aromas of Turkish delight, rose water and cherries, with fresh yet creamy cherry notes, and more rose on the palate,’ MF.
£36.04, Bibendum Wine, 0845 263 6924

78 Mas de Les Vinyes, Traca i Mocador Negre 2013, Catalonia
‘This is packed with fruit – cherries and raspberries – and has a substantial body, with significant tannins on the dry palate,’ ES. ‘An initial floral note is followed by some vibrant red fruit, leading to sweet berry fruit on the palate, as well as a touch of spice and with some fresh acidity to finish,’ CC.
£19.18, Hallgarten & Novum Wines, 01582 722538

75 Sierra Cantabria, Garnacha 2014, Rioja
‘The predominant notes are of spice, and liquorice in particular, but there’s some great juicy red fruit too. An approachable wine, and very drinkable,’ CC. ‘Good intensity on the nose, with dark fruits and some vanilla and coconut too, leading to strong tannins on the palate, finishing with more vanilla spice,’ MR.
£13.33, Enotria&Coe, 020 8961 5161

74 Gaznata, Garnacha Joven 2016, Sierra de Gredos
‘Fresh, with light, crisp cranberry fruit notes, with a savoury edge to the palate at first, followed by sweet red fruit. Substantial and well structured,’ CC. ‘Fresh, sunny and with no pretension at all, this has a light body, with light tannins. A good match for deep-fried fish and squid,’ MR.
£7.50, Carte Blanche Wines, 01256 772233

Panel comments

Clinton Cawood, Imbibe
‘There’s a distinct style of Grenache coming out of each of these three countries and arguably a space for all three on UK wine lists. There’s food-friendliness, good value and a tendency towards lighter styles that makes them both versatile and commercial. You couldn’t help but feel that there’s more untapped potential from this grape.’

Michael Fiducia, Sorrel Restaurant
‘Through the years my favourite Grenaches have been the meatier styles, but today we saw lighter and fruitier wines from all three countries. I think there’s enough recognition of Grenache nowadays and people are more adventurous, so these work in the £40-£60 price range on the list. The French examples were more structured and I would have expected the Australians to have a lot more alcohol than they had.’

Mario Rosso, Pied à Terre
‘The French flight was more on the dry side, with finesse, while the Spanish winemakers use a lot of oak and you can lose the spirit of the grape. I found the Australians to be more on the sweet side, so I’d more likely list Spain or France. People don’t know Grenache as well as some other grapes – it’s something that needs to develop more. There’s great potential.’

Elisa Soggi,a Kai Mayfair
‘I liked the French side here and Spain is, of course, the house of Garnacha, but I was expecting more from Australia – there was a fizzy, funkiness to some. Overall, Grenache works well with particular dishes, as there’s a lot of fruitiness and tannins. Many of these would work well with duck or offal.’

Corina Stanila, La Dame de Pic, Four Seasons Hotel at Ten Trinity Square
‘Grenache can be as elegant a grape variety as Pinot Noir. I think the New World is doing a good job with it and I really enjoyed the Australian flight here. They were lighter than the French Grenaches, with high acidity, while the French were more intense. I’d definitely recommend the Australian examples for food, but you could even serve them as an aperitif.’


Many thanks to the team at La Dame de Pic, Four Seasons Hotel at Ten Trinity Square, for hosting the tasting and for all of their help on the day.

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