Our May host Chelsea Coleman, proprietress of wine bar the Rose in San Diego, urged us to grab our suits and shades and take a dive into garnacha, or grenache — a beautifully versatile grape that’s one of the most widely planted varietals in the world. The wines Chelsea picked showed that whether garnacha is coming from France’s Rhône Valley, Spain (where garnacha is a native grape), or the hills of San Diego County, it can translate into a most summer-appropriate sipper that only gets better with a little time spent in fridge.
A few things that make garnacha so versatile: It's easy to grow and graft, aka to propagate more vines. It's also great in warm climates — the pinot noir of warm climes, some say — which is why it does as well in San Diego as it does in France, Spain, or Sardinia.
That said, a grape's expression in wine is going to depend on the specifics of its climate. The Los Pilares grenache in our May box, for example, is grown in San Diego county, which has a seaside, Mediterranean-like climate with big diurnal shifts: hot in the day, then cool at night. Big temperature changes do wonders for grapes, with the warmth concentrating the sugars and juices and the cool temps upping the acidity. A climate that's overall warmer may yield a fuller-bodied grenache.
Also contributing to a grape's expression: how it actually goes from grape to wine. The garnarcha grapes that make up the Gulp/Hablo in our May box, for example, spent less time on the skins before being pressed than the Los Pilares, making it a bit lighter.
Get to know more about the garnacha/grenache wines we opened in May:
- Los Pilares Grenache — Chelsea actually helped harvest this wine along with the Los Pilares team in September 2020. You’ll find that it’s bursting with the signature deep-red fruit of grenache, plus slight touches of burnt orange and that stick-to-the-sides-of-your-mouth quality thanks to the tannins. This is best enjoyed cold; serving it alongside some grilled meat wouldn’t hurt either.
- Vignerons Ardéchois Uvica Côtes du Rhône Blanc — This wine is made by a collective known as Vignerons Ardéchois, a group of small grape growers in Ardèche that banded together to create some outstanding wines. It’s hard not to notice the chalky qualities and loads of green strawberry when opening this wine. Slightly less pronounced are the faint whiffs of white flowers and a touch of peach pit, matched with a hint of salinity. It’d be wise to crack this one on a hot day and enjoy it with some buttery oysters, veggie risotto, or crawfish.
- Gulp/Hablo Garnacha — This wine is everything you’d want in a liter bottle; perfect for sharing, it’s quaffable and light-bodied — the kind of bottle that will be gone before you know it. It’s peppery and herbaceous with an acidity that’s crisp and oh so much ripe red berries. Chill it and drink it with your favorite charcuterie spread.
- A Tribute to Grace Rosé of Grenache — A rosé’s rosé, this wine is packed with zippy and juicy fruit and way high in acid. This would be an ideal beach wine (or for your ferry ride on the way to the beach). It’s packed with perfect expressions of melon, including watermelon and honeydew, as well as citrus and white pepper.
- Vignerons Ardéchois Uvica Côtes du Rhône Rouge — Okay, we actually had five wines this month! Some of you received this red instead of the white, since our small-batch producers, well, produce each wine in small batches. Here we have a lovely Cote du Rhône rouge made largely from grenache (70 percent grenache and 30 percent syrah, to be exact). It’s a juicy beauty that is all grenache upon the first taste, but finishes with pepper and a bit of iron thanks to that syrah. On the nose you might also pick up on thyme, rosemary, and lavender. Balanced and food-friendly, this would do well with a number of pairings — but grilled veggies covered in za’atar would be particularly special.
Still can’t get enough garnacha? Stock up on more bottles from this month’s lineup to get you through the summer.