This is how to do Grenache!

I really don’t have much time for Grenache-based wines. They are usually soupily boozed-up, with little real refinement or complexity. They are just so often fruit and alcohol bombs and that sort of thing bores the poo out of me. I bloody hate them.

So if you are obliged, by previous generations’ planting habits, to make something with this appalling grape why not go screaming butt-hole crazy and make the essence of all that is awful in Grenache. They do this in Banyuls (a sweet, red, fortified wine from Southern France) and shaft me backwards if with this example Domaine Pietri-Geraud haven’t pulled off the prime parody of a pastiche of a piss-poor wine and made it perfectly palatable. THIS is what you should do with Grenache! No more of those 15% muck Chateauneufs, have it sweeter, stronger and sillier.

Banyuls Cuvee Mediterranee 2005Banyuls Cuvee Mediterranee 2005, Domaine Pietri-Geraud

The nose is slightly rancid, very earthy, with somewhat oxidised fruit of incredible ripeness and vast amounts of booze. It’s Chateauneuf-quadruple-plus and all the better for going the whole way rather than having some pretence at being a serious wine. This is very, very silly. As I am epically silly I heartily approve. For a Grenache that’s this ripe and been abused so utterly it’s remarkably clean and has at least a suggestion of complexity. Well, if not exactly ‘complexity’ it hits you over the head with a multitude of peculiar and knobbly implements at the same time. It tastes pretty sweet and attractive, even though there is still that hint of rancidness to the fruit. It’s got the rough tannic rub people seem to want to Grenache and, heavens above, there’s some acidity there as well. The flavours persist for a long time and, I mean this with total seriousness, you are pretty glad that they do. Yeah, it’s hat-stand, off the wall and has a suggestion of something slightly threatening about it, but it’s a pretty nice drop and by arse does it get you whammed!

  • Fun review even though I now go creeping away as a philistine. I like granache (but hey, I make no claims for myself as a wine person, I just married one). And I love the label too.

  • This is going to sound awful but I went through a phase of liking Grenache when I was 13-14. But it was worse than that, it was Australian Grenache I liked, and I thought I was being cool! You cannot be seriously into wine at 13 and hope to be cool… Yes, isn’t the label spiffing!

  • Nice one, David. I’ve never been a big fan of (dry) Grenache myself, but it does better in Roussillon than anywhere else. As for the sweeties, rancio/rancid doesn’t get much better than in a quality Banyuls. Bit late to suggest you keep a glass or two for sipping over the next few days/weeks/months, but it just gets better and better, the more rancid it becomes! 🙂

  • I’ll admit that I quite like some Grenache-y Collioures, but basically I don’t give two hoots about the grape. The Banyuls, on the other hand, was superb – just the right mixture of crazy excess and bonkers sophistication. You sell some top wines, Leon, and that one made us very happy last night. Bit tipsy, too!

  • Erm… Oh dear… Wrong Facebook account for leaving that comment… I don’t suppose it’d surprise too many of you, though 😉

  • Dids

    I am going to get pilloried by Leon here, but I think there is so much better Grenache out there than just Banyuls. I tend to think the CNDP Grenache has gone that way due to a certain American wine writer. When the wine maker looks to leave a good lick of acidity in his wine Grenache can produce a damn good wine and age medium term at least, and thankfully not cost the earth. There is one winemaker that springs to mind, but I sing his praises far too much :). No I would take a dry Grenache ahead of Banyuls every day of the week.

  • Chateauneuf du Poop has had its day, Sean. Occasionally brilliant, but so often hot and soupy. You’re a mere youngster – you’ve time to learn. 😉

  • Well I love Grenache from the Roussillon and surely David you like wine of the quality of Pignon? I have a bottle of the 1990,and if you do not love this,I may even buy a pair of those daft red trousers you wear 🙂

  • Mr P, if you mean Rayas’ Pignan I’ve only had it three times: the 78, 85 and 90. Each time I was impressed by the complexity but just found them a touch hot. Decent Burgundy is cheaper and better. Roussillon Grenache can be pretty drinkable, helped by being pretty cheap, but they never age anywhere as well as you hope they might when you try them young.

    Red trousers are the business – if you don’t wear red trousers you may as well wear no trousers at all!

  • Tom Gauterin

    Hello David

    My first comment about these parts, so please don’t take offence if I say that I have quite a liking for Grenache, especially Chateauneuf and Gigondas! Not the silly 16%+ ‘special brew’ cuvees that keep being made (seemingly to attract Parker points), but the traditional type that really repay aging. My wife and I had a lovely (13.5%) 1995 Pegau on Sunday, which was lovely – plenty of fruit left, but still with a good core of acidity. Not a hint of hotness or excessive funk either – just a really well-made, well-balanced and mature wine. Clos des Papes and Beaucastel (much cleaner wines in the last few years, I think) can usually be relied upon too, though they are terribly expensive these days. I’m pretty keen on St Cosme (Gigondas) too, which is perhaps an anomaly since they are very keen on their new oak. Still – lovely wines if you like to be killed with kindness once in a while, and they can stand up to very heavy meaty stews.

    I can see that a lot of Grenache-based wine can be too much, though; lots of the ‘modern’ producers will insist on creating mega-extracted fruit bombs that can be drunk within 3-4 years, but which don’t have enough acidity to keep going long enough for the alcohol and tannins to calm down.

    That said, I’m also quite fond of Rioja so my judgement is probably not to be trusted :o)

  • Tom Gauterin

    Dids – may I ask whom the winemaker in question might be? If his wines are as tasty as you say and reasonably priced, I ought to investigate…

    Many thanks.

  • Tom—-it must be Domaine Treloar as Sean is a keen advocate. the wines are very good and with many L-R wines,offer very good QPR

  • Dids

    I am a keen advocate of him Keith because he does something that very few Roussillon producers do and that is pick for freshness, thereby retaining acidity in the wine which others do not consider an essential element of Roussillon wines and pick when far too ripe and crop as much as possible. Where other top producers crop at 40hl, Jonathan crops at 26. So Tom Keith is correct in stating that it is Domaine Treloar is the wine I am talking about. Leon, was the first merchant to bring it in.