Shades of Grenache
“How do I love thee ?
Let me count the ways…”
I know we tend to get a little poetic about our Rhone varietals at the girl & the fig, but of all the grapes we work with, Grenache is by far the favorite. For me, it’s because of its versatility. Like our food, this varietal seems to have its own seasons.
In the spring, we anxiously await the release of the Grenache Rosés, with their beautiful aromas of strawberry and watermelon, the flavors of citrus and wildflowers and the generous acidity that makes us want another glass. In summer, we start to crave Grenache Blanc, the perfect patio wine, served ice cold, the green apple and mandarin orange flavors making it the perfect accompaniment to our fresh salads and lighter dishes. Once fall arrives, we transition into reds, the lighter styles of Grenache Noir pair incredibly with the autumnal flavors of clove, cinnamon and Allspice. When the cold days of winter are upon us, we start to see the more brooding style of Grenache, full of black pepper, raisins and cherries, these wines are just begging to be served alongside a hearty stew or with a thick slab of red meat.
Grenache originated in Northern Spain and Southern France, but we have seen a noticeable rise in interest and plantings here in the United States, particularly in California. This makes sense for a number of reasons, the least of which is its rise in popularity among savvy consumers. Younger drinkers are looking for alternatives to Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir, wines that their parents drink and now command top dollar for the few that can afford to drink it on a daily basis. Climate change also plays a huge part in this revolution; Grenache thrives in hot weather and can survive with little water. For those of us who live in California, these conditions are all too familiar.
If you’re in to sweet wines, I have a special treat for you. One of the rare pleasures in life is drinking Grenache dessert wine with chocolate. These wines cannot be called a “port” (as they are not made in Portugal), but they are created in the style of those from Banyuls and Maury in the deep South of France. Sommeliers around the world will argue for days about pairing red wine with chocolate, but there is one thing they will universally agree on: Banyuls and chocolate is one of the greatest gastronomic experiences one can have in life. We are currently pouring the M. Chapoutier Banyuls on our dessert menu which may be sampled with our profiteroles, or, even better, with our chocolate trifle.
Now with all this said, I hope you don’t feel like you must “stick to the rules” and only drink Grenache Blanc in summer. At this very moment, it is 40 degrees outside and I am drinking a Grenache Rose while I write these words; what’s most important, like Romeo and Juliet, is to follow your heart - and my heart is all about Grenache.