I love grenache based wines. They a have a spicy, fresh, fruit forward component, which is great in cooler weather. Thought to have originated in Spain, the grape's drawback is it ripens late—it needs sufficient heat to fully mature. It does well in the south of France (typically blended with syrah) and, not surprisingly, equally well in the hot, dry climate of Australia where it often stands alone. Here are the panel's top grenache picks:
2010 Chateau Trillol Grenache Syrah, $15
Nestled in the hills of southwest France, this Corbieres estate blended grenache with 40 percent syrah in 2010 for a fairly bold wine. The earthy aromas are filled with spicy red berry and a touch of herb. The flavors are rich and meaty, combining dark berry fruit and smooth tannins, balancing acidity with a little kalamata olive on the finish.
2013 2013 Flegenheimer Bros. Paisant Red, $20
From Australia's McLaren Vale comes a grenache blend with a smattering of syrah (4 percent). This wine fooled me: I picked it as Old World. The aromas are bright and fruity with floral berry backed by spice and red licorice. The juicy fruit flavors are light and lively, and a mix of raspberry and spice with cinnamon comes through on the velvety finish.
2013 Yalumba Old Bush Vine Grenache, $19
I've seen this Barossa estate's low-yielding, gnarly vines: They're between 75 and 80 years old, and they are impressive. This wine's beautifully perfumed nose is a plush mix of cherry, berry, nutmeg and cinnamon. The palate is ripe, round and unmistakably Aussie, with big, sweet plum and berry fruit perfectly balanced by racy acidity.