Good Gracious Grenache at the Vancouver Playhouse Int’l Wine Fest

When most people purchase red wine, they probably think of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, or Pinot Noir. I’m sure that Grenache is probably not on the top of your list, but should be.  During last year’s first International Grenache Day, this grape was given the moniker, “the girl next door“.  She is always around and a nice person but you don’t notice her, until you are smitten one day.

A little bit about the grenache grape, before reviewing the wines we tasted at Good Gracious Grenache, during the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Fetival.  The grape is originally from Spain, where it is known as “garnacha“. It likes heat, accumulates lots of sugar and can make wines, high in alcohol.  It can have aromas and flavours of raspberries, grilled herbs, black olives, mocha, tobacco, and butterscotch.  Quite a range of aromas and flavours.  Grenache, as it is known in France, is important in Northern and Eastern Spain where it is blended with tempranillo.  Garnacha provides the fruit, while tempranillo provides the backbone of the blend.

Our moderators, Michelle Bouffard and Michaela Morris had us taste wines from Spain, France, Australia and California. Our wines:

  • Miguel Torres de Casta Penedes, Spain 2010. ($14.99)
  • Paul Mas Grenache, France 2009. ($12.99)
  • Perrin & Fils Vacqueyras, France 2009. ($26.99)
  • Chapoutier La Bernardine Chateauneuf-du-Pape, France 2008. ($48.99)
  • Bodegas Valdemar Conde de Valdemar Rioja Garnacha, Spain 2009. ($25.00)
  • Orowines, Atteca, Calatayud, Spain 2008. ($26.99)
  • Telmo Rodriguez Pegaso Granito, Spain 2007. ($55.00)
  • 2πR DOQ Priorat, Spain 2007. ($47.00)
  • Ridge Vineyards ATP Grenache, California 2004. (no price available)
  • Langmeil GSM Three Garden, Australia 2009. ($24.99)
  • Yalumba Tri-Centenary Vineyard Vine Vale Barossa Grenache, Australia 2006. (no price available)
  • Chapoutier Banyuls, France 2008. (no price available)
  • Seppeltsfield Fortified Grenache Rose, Australia, NV. (no price available)

Miguel Torres de Casta Penedes, Spain 2010. This is a rose wine to start of the event.  Light pink in colour. Strawberry nose.  Light body, off dry, with strawberry flavour.  Low tannins with good acidity.

Paul Mas Grenache, France 2009. This wine is from the Languedoc region of France, which has been known in the past as a wine lake, but is now being known for better quality wines. Paul Mas represents a new, younger breed of winemakers.  This wine was deep purple in the glass with legs on the glass, indicating it’s higher alcohol content coming from this warm region of France.  Slight raspberry on the nose.  Medium body and tannins, with raspberries and cherries.  Short in length though.

Perrin & Fils Vacqueyras, France 2009. Vacqueyras is a small region in the Rhone.  Vanilla, Purple fruit and olives on the nose. Higher level of acidity with firm tannins. Quite dry with dark cherry flavour. Medium plus length.  This is a good food wine.

Chapoutier La Bernardine Chateauneuf-du-Pape, France 2008. Chateauneuf-du-Pape is also a region within the Rhone, but has a different expression than Vacqueyras.  C-du-P is usually a blend of up to 13 different grape varieties, but grenache is usually the major component of the wine. Dull garnet in the glass.  Light strawberry, cherry, and olive aromas.  Medium minus body. Light cherry flavour and a bit warm on the tongue.

Bodegas Valdemar Conde de Valdemar Rioja Garnacha, Spain 2009. This wine is deep purple coloured.  Dark fruit, slight leather and vanilla aromas.  Good fruit flavours of dark cherries.

Orowines, Atteca, Calatayud, Spain 2008. This is an area to the south of Rioja.  It is a very arid climate.  This wine was very deep purple in colour.  Saddle and slight smokiness on the nose.  Quite juicy and fruity cherry flavours.  Medium body, tannins and length.  I enjoyed this wine.

Telmo Rodriguez Pegaso Granito, Spain 2007. This wine comes from a high altitude vineyard in Castilla y Leon, surrounded by mountains. Dark cherry and oak nose. Medium body, round mouth feel, with ripe cherry flavours.  It has very dry tannins and finish.  Needs food if you drink it now, or leave it to age 3-4 years and try again.

2πR DOQ Priorat, Spain 2007. Quite aromatic in the glass with oak and menthol. Juicy dark fruit aromas along with some leather and licorice.   Dry firm tannins and long length.  A very high quality wine, but needs some aging in your cellar.

Ridge Vineyards ATP Grenache, Sonoma, California 2004. This wine was brought in specifically for this tasting.  It was not available in the big tasting room, or for purchase in the festival liquor store. Grenache is not widely planted in California so it is a treat to see how the grape thrives there. This wine had vanilla and dark fruit aromas.  Dry up front, with medium body.  Savory and dark fruit flavours.

Langmeil GSM Three Garden, Australia 2009GSM stands for Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre.  A blend.  This blend had the least amount of Grenache in it. Olives and savory aromas in the glass. Medium body, with dark fruit and olive flavours.  Soft mouthfeel with low tannins.

Yalumba Tri-Centenary Vineyard Vine Vale Barossa Grenache, Australia 2006.  Darker garnet in colour. Light vanilla, oak, cherry and raspberries on the nose.  Light fruity, raspberry flavours with a bit of spice.  Medium body.  A nice wine.

Chapoutier Banyuls, France 2008.  If you like Port, you will like Banyuls.  Banyuls is a sweet fortified wine. This one is 90% grenache and 10% mourvedre. Opaque purple in colour.  Sweet ripe dark fruit nose with some citrus notes. Lighter bodied, sweet, with dark fruit and spice flavours. Try this wine with chocolate.

Seppeltsfield Fortified Grenache Rose, Australia, NV. Another sweet fortified wine. Light, salmony coloured.  Bright aromatics with raspberry and caramel.  Medium sweetness, with strawberry and spice flavour.  Medium length.

Some Alternative Grenache Wines

Most of the wines were in an “Old World” style, with firm tannins, olives and herbs.  I have tried other, more bright raspberry fruit wines made from the grenache grape.  Here are a few wines I recommend to try:

d’Arenberg The Custodian Grenache 2008, McLaren Vale, Australia $21.99 – This wine is light garnet in colour.  Smoke and raspberry on the nose. Petrol, cassis, raspberry flavours.  Low tannins. Very refreshing.

Dusted Valley Grenache, Columbia Valley, WA 2009. This is such a wonderful wine.  Just the right balance of fruit, tannins, and acidity.  The wine was medium garnet in colour.  Cherry, vanilla and smoky aromas.  Raspberry, cherry, and vanilla on the palate.  Medium bodied with a raspberry finish.

Airfield Estates Winery Mustang 2008, Washington  (US$25). This is a blend of 53% Grenache, 35% Syrah, 8% Cinsault, 2% Counoise, and 2% Mourvedre.   This wine was medium purple in colour.  Quite a complex nose, with aromas of cassis, vanilla, and cherry. Medium body with soft tannins.  Red cherry, raspberry, vanilla, and butterscotch flavours.  Medium length.

Brotte Vacqueyras “Bouvencourt” 2006, France $28.99. This is a Grenache / Syrah blend. Medium garnet with a bit of bricking. Caramel, and cherry on the nose.  Medium body and tannins. Caramel, apple, raspberry and cherry flavours.

Gemtree Vineyards Cadenizia 2008, Australia. This biodynamic wine is a blend of Grenache, Tempranillo, and Shiraz. Medium garnet. Nice nose with butterscotch, cherry and vanilla. Lots of cassis flavour with black cherry and spiciness. Firm yet fine tannins.

Enjoy!

More Rioja: Crianza, Reserva, and Gran Reserva #VPIWF

Rioja is one of the well-known wine regions in Spain, divided into 3 sub-regions, Rioja Alta, Rioja Alavesa and Rioja Baja, with each region having slightly different climates and producing different styles of wines.

These 3 regions, and other regions in Spain use these designations for certain levels of quality and aging of their wines. I’d like to cover the Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva levels/styles.  Wines labeled Crianza must be aged at least two years, one of them in barrel. Reserva wines must be aged for a minimum of three years, one of them in barrel. Gran Reserva wines must be aged at least five years, with two of them spent in barrel. In some cases the wines are left even longer in the barrel before being bottled and sold in your local bottle shop.  Riojas can be aged in either French or American oak barrels.

These classes of wines can also be broken down by style: classical vs modern.  The Classical style is characterised by longer aging in older barrels, often American oak. They are elegant, structured wines and often have a slight oxidized character. Their fruit tends to be subdued, lean and elegant, an effect of the long oak aging.  Modern style Riojas have shorter aging times in newer oak, often in French oak or a mixture of French and American oak. They are fruit driven wines, with support by the oak structure. Though they are fruit driven, they still retain elegance and balanced acidity. Both styles have their place in your cellar.

There are a wide range of Spanish wines at the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival.  Although I don’t have the list of wines and wineries, I am sure that there will be a mix of Crianza, Reserva, and Gran Reserva wines, as well as classical and modern styles. If they are attending, I would say to check out the tables from Bodegas Ysios, Marques de Riscal, Bodegas Muga, Marques de Murrieta, Miquel Merino, Vina Real, Bodegas Baigorri, and Bodegas Martinez Corta.

Enjoy!

Celebrating Mardi Gras Food with Wine!

Mardi Gras is coming up on March 8. What food and wine will you be serving? I took a trip to New Orleans, the Big Easy, just before Hurricane Katrina. It was an amazing food experience. Lots of rich and delicious food.

For Mardi Gras, there are some well loved dishes.  I was thinking to tell you about some of them, and then offer some wine pairing suggestions.  And maybe get invited to a few Mardi Gras parties!

What are some Mardi Gras dishes?

Courtesy Epicurious.com

  • Oysters Bienville
  • Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya
  • Gumbo

The Oysters Bienville dish on the half shell cooked with butter and egg and of course oysters is quite a rich dish.  A riesling or maybe an unoaked chardonnay may pair nicely with this.  For a riesling maybe try a Tantalus Vineyards Riesling from the Okanagan, BC or a Pikes Traditionale Clare Valley Riesling from Australia. For unoaked chardonnay, you could pick a La Chablisienne Chablis from France or Township 7 unoaked chardonnay from Okanagan, BC.

The Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya will be a spicy dish with a tomato based sauce.  A wine with good fruit and low tannins would pair well.  Maybe a grenache or a zinfandel.  On the grenache side, I really like the Sorrento Dry Grown Grenache 2008, McLaren Vale, Australia.  I just tried it last month and it is wonderful, lots of red fruit flavours.  Nice raspberry and toffee on the nose and on the palate. If you prefer a garnacha from Spain, try the Las Rocas Garnacha. For a zinfandel Kenwood Vineyards Yulupa Old Vine Zinfandel 2007 or Ravenswood Vintners Blend Zinfandel 2006.

What is gumbo?  Gumbo is a roux-based stew made with andouille sausage, cubes of beef, crab and shrimp. Again this will be spicy.  A New World pinot noir could match well.  From last years Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Fair, I can recommend the Villa Maria Estate Single Vineyard Taylors Pass Pinot Noir 2007 and the Woollaston Estates Tussock Nelson Pinot Noir 2007. My wine reviews for these 2 wines are here.  If you want a BC Pinot Noir, try the Quails’ Gate Pinot Noir?  One of my reliable pinots in BC!

In case you don’t have a recipe for these dishes, I’ve added the links for you.
Jambalaya

Oysters Bienville

Gumbo

Enjoy these dishes from the Big Easy and these wines from around the world!

Where is Rioja and What Wines Can I Taste?

SPAIN WINE MAP FROM http://picsicio.eu/keyword/spanish%20wine%20region/Rioja is a Denominación de Origen Calificada (D.O.C. Qualified designation of origin) wine region named after La Rioja, in Spain.  The Rioja DOC is inland in the northern part of Spain and has a very warm continental climate.  The area is sometimes known as the Bordeaux of Spain. Rioja wines are normally a blend of various grape varieties, and can be either red (tinto), white (blanco) or rosé (rosado).  The most common red grape variety for Rioja is Tempranillo. Other grapes used include Garnacha Tinta, Graciano, and Mazuelo.  You can get a single varietal Tempranillo wine, or blends with Tempranillo.  Tempranillo comes from the Spanish word, “temprano”, which means early.  This is an early ripening grape and works well in cooler climates. (thanks to Wikipaedia for this background info.)

Tempranillo has flavours and aromas of plum and strawberries to tobacco, cedar, vanilla, leather and herbs.  It also can have a bit of a rustic edge to it.  It produces a medium bodied wine with medium tannins, and pairs well with stews and grilled meat.

Garnacha, in France it is known as Grenache, is another popular red grape.  It has fruity flavours, predominantly strawberry, coupled with a fiery spiciness. Sometimes you get a butterscotch flavour from garnacha.

On the white wine side, Viura is the prominent grape (aka Macabeo) and is normally blended with some Malvasía and Garnacha Blanca.

It has been common for some bodegas to age their red wines for more years than other countries (e.g. 15-20) years or even more before their release.  There are different levels of aging/quality for Rioja wines:

  • Rioja, is the youngest, spending less than a year in an oak aging barrel.
  • Crianza is wine aged for at least two years, at least one of which was in oak.
  • Rioja Reserva is aged for at least three years, of which at least one year is in oak.
  • Rioja Gran Reserva wines have been aged at least two years in oak and three years in bottle.

Reserva and Gran Reserva wines are not necessarily produced each year.

Doing a quick check at the www.everythingwine.ca website, I located the following Rioja wines:

  • J.G. Carrion Rioja Tempranillo 750 mL
  • Remirez de Ganuza Rioja Reserva 2001 750 mL
  • Palacios Remondo La Vendimia Rioja 750 mL
  • Faustino V Reserva Rioja 750ml
  • Vina Tondonia Rioja Reserva 750 mL
  • Marques de Vitoria Ecco organic Rioja 750ml
  • Muga Rioja Reserva Tempranillo 750 mL
  • Montebuena Rioja Tempranillo 750 mL
  • Muga Torre Rioja 2004 750ml
  • Roda Rioja Red Blend 750 mL
  • Marques de Caceres Rose Rioja (maybe the most popular winery)
  • Ostatu Crianza Rioja Tempranillo 750 mL
  • Conde de Valdemar Gran Reserva Rioja 750 mL
  • Ramon Bilbao Crianza Cruz de Alba Tempranillo 750ml
  • Artadi Pagos Viejos Tempranillo 750 mL

and many more.  There were 29 in total.  The above wines range in price from $13 to $113 (the first wine in the list is the least expensive and the last in the list is the most expensive. Increasing price as you go down the list).

I really enjoy Spanish wines and I can find them at quite good price points.  Try a tempranillo if you have not enjoyed wine from this grape before.  Also, Muga makes an excellent Rose if you can find it.

There are other wine regions to discover in Spain.  In future blog articles I will be covering Jerez (sherry region), Ribera del Duero and other areas in Spain.  Salud!