Grenache Master Class

Reviewed: 5 April 2013

Following on from the recent grenache discoveries I wrote up last week, I was very pleased to attend a grenache tasting held by a local wine group. Grenache is a variety that is commonly blended with other varieties (typically shiraz), so straight grenache based wines can be overlooked as a source of fine wines. Confusingly, where it is produced can affect what it is called. In France and Australia, it is referred to as grenache, whereas in Spain, it is typically referred to as garnacha.

This tasting looked at grenache based wines and grenache blends, looking at how different countries and regions handle the fruit, as well as how well the wines can age. After all, it is not only the climate that effects the finished wine, it is how it is treated in the winery. A few wines did not make it to these pages as there was considered to be an unacceptable degree of Brettanomycis evident. In small amounts, this can add complexity, but in large amounts, it can make the wine smell like a barnyard.


Baltasar – Garnacha – Gracians – Vinas Viejas – 2003 (17.5). Ripe, fragrant fruit that combines red fruit characters with cherry and a touch of tar. At 10 years of age, this is still quite dense and chewy. The palate has excellent length and mouth-feel. Great now, but may still improve.

Guigal – Cotes du Rhone – 1995 (17.5). Remarkable wine in that this is made in very large quantities, is relatively inexpensive and has aged superbly over its 18 year life. On the nose, there is still a degree of ripe fruit, but with a lovely savoury lift adding complexity. There is obvious age on the palate, with earthy characters, forest floor and supple, though savoury tannins. A complete drink now.

La Bruja Averia – Grenache – 2011 (17.5). Pretty, spicy grenache fruit with bright red berries. The palate has cherry, tar, spice and red fruits and a finish that is long, supple and savoury. Lovely balance, with souring acidity that cuts through to the finish leaving the palate refreshed. From Madrid!

The Willows – Grenache – 2010 (17). An interesting wine that shows mint and eucalyptus over herbal notes. With air, the floral fruit really comes through with soft, textured tannins driving the finish. There is good length of flavours on the close.

La Fiole – Cotes du Rhone – 2010 (17.3). I liked this wine. There was a surprising level of density to the fruit and even some fresh oak characters in a balanced package. The palate on this gets really floral and perfumed, while the fine tannins make their presence felt on a finish that is drying and textured. Really needs food to shine.

Clos Des Papes – Châteauneuf du Pape – 2004 (17.5). Sweet fruit on the nose with a lovely savoury lick that imparts gentle spice to the wine. The palate is textured, chewy and long, with a degree of fleshy fruit and a savoury edge. Excellent length and persistence.

Cirello – Grenache – 1850 – 2006 (18+). The adjectives flowed in my tasting notes for this wine. Dense, textured, long, chewy, savoury and earthy. Tremendous length and latent power to the fruit. Superb quality fruit has been matched to quality oak, the old bush vines providing real concentration and penetration, especially on the palate. Bravo. (From the Barossa).

Roger Sabon – Châteauneuf du Pape – Cuvee Prestige – 2000 (17.5). This has dense fruit, with attractive, savoury complexity. The palate is long and supple, yet there are chewy textural components on the finish. Robust fruit, but with a degree of finesse.

Clos Mogador – Grenache – 1997 (18). A beautiful wine that has delicious ripe fruit. Supple and juicy sweet fruit leads on to chewy, texturing tannins and quality oak. From Priorat.

Rayas – Châteauneuf du Pape – Pignan – 1998 (17.8). Really showing its age, the wine is silky, supple, long and quite seamless. Really needs food to complement the less obvious fruit characters.

Charles Melton – Grenache – 1997 (17.5). Much fresher than the Rayas, with dense, ripe fruit that has chocolate overtones. The palate is defined by floral fruit, that is supple and long. This is balanced by lovely pepper and cedar spice characters.