The world of wine is full of peaks and valleys, ups and downs. One minute, you’re the hot grape variety on the block and the next you’re a washed up raisin crushing tall boys in a seedy bar and reminiscing about the good ol’ days.
In the ‘90s, Merlot was what cool kids were drinking until the movie Sideways caused everyone to declare that they “weren’t drinking any fucking Merlot” anymore. Next, the millennium gave birth to a critter wine phenomenon, which saw Little Penguins, Yellow Tails and Funky Llamas ride a surge of popularity all the way to the bank. Fast-forward to present day and you’ll find the current heartthrob of the wine world: Malbec.
I can’t say I’m surprised at Malbec’s seemingly overnight ascension to widespread popularity. On the surface, this grape has gained a reputation largely from its transplanted roots in Argentina, with an ideal combination of assets to make it a star. It’s simple to pronounce and remember, consistent in quality and delivers on relatively good value. From a wine geek’s perspective, Malbec can sometimes seem to be ambiguous and homogenous, but its strengths for a mass market is undeniable. That being said, what comes up will inevitably come down, and that universal truth begs the question: What’s next?
If I had my way, the next grape variety to collectively win public hearts would be Grenache. Although originally of Spanish descent, Grenache has found a number of suitable homes throughout the world, including the South of France, Australia, South Africa and California. At its best, Grenache provides a nice study of balance, displaying savoury spice notes alongside sweet red fruit. Often, Grenache dons a deceivingly light colour, which can be surprising for its depth of character and intense flavour. In an ideal climate, which generally consists of a long, warm growing season and limited precipitation, this Mediterranean grape can show off its full kaleidoscope of palettes ranging from herbes de Provence and white pepper, to bing cherry and raspberry jam.
Although Grenache can be brilliant on its own, it also plays well with others and can be nicely partnered with varieties like Syrah and Mourvedre. In these blends, commonly referred to as “GSM,” the power of Syrah and depth of Mourvedre serve to elevate the juicy nature of Grenache and create a crowd-pleasing, dynamic blend. These GSM blends can range from good value, everyday table wines to world class, cellar-worthy gems, such as the fabled wines of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. In addition to the hearty red wines described above, Grenache is also capable of producing an exuberant, refreshing rosé.
So if you’re feeling adventurous this weekend and want to break the Malbec mould, head down to your nearest wine shop and ask them to hit your Grenache spot. You just might be happy you did.
Grenache is the new Malbec – a vine choice indeed!
By Jesse Willis (Proprietor, Vine Arts Wine and Spirits)AB, Alberta