Food & Drink » Winesipper

Grenache

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Grenache thrives in hot, dry climates like those of Spain, Australia and the south of France. Typically, it is blended with other grapes, including syrah, cinsault and mourvedre, thus the criterion for this tasting was that the wines be at least 60 percent grenache. But all but one of those entered ended up being pure grenache, and the quality of the lineup left most panelists wondering why they hadn't been drinking more of this grape. Selecting the top three was no easy task, though a few favorites finally emerged. This rich and fruity variety does well with grilled meat and poultry, making it the perfect choice to go with your Labor Day barbecue. A couple are a bit on the pricey side, but hey, it's the last holiday of summer. Here are this week's picks:

2007 Campo de Borja Borsoa, $7.99

From the Aragon region of Spain comes this absolutely delicious bargain of a blend. Borsoa throws 25 percent tempranillo into the mix and this richly aromatic wine opens with sweet berry, rose petal and violet all backed by a light bit of earth and mineral. This is a remarkably well-balanced wine that's very fruit-forward in style. Lovely cherry and berry flavors explode on the palate, laced with smooth chocolate, bright acidity, notes of spicy pepper and tobacco. A remarkable value.

2006 Skylark Grenache, $30

The Skylark Wine company is a partnership between John Lancaster and Robert Perkins. Sourcing fruit from Northern California, this Grenache comes from a small plot in Geyserville that produces just 150 cases. It offers rich aromas of dark cherry backed by lavender, mocha and spice. A plush wine on the palate with a nice touch of anise on the remarkably persistent finish, it's filled with blackberry and blueberry fruit flavors, along with ripe plum and subtle notes of chocolate and caramel.

2006 Tir na N'og Old Vine Grenache, $27

Hailing from Australia's McLaren Vale, the wine's Gaelic name translates as "land of the youth." The low-yield, old-vine grenache produces a blockbuster wine with opulent aromas of ripe berry fruit, chocolate, coffee, vanilla and licorice. It's a complete sucker punch in the mouth, oozing with rich currant and blackberry fruit, solid, vanilla-hued oak and ripe tannins. There's nothing subtle about this wine, but that said, it displays remarkable balance with a nice hit of acidity on the finish. Decadently delicious now, it should do nothing but improve with age.

This week's panel: Dave Faulk, Porterhouse Meats; David Kirkpatrick, Boise Co-op Wine Shop; Cindy Limber, Bardenay; Karen McMillin, Young's Market; Michael Molinengo, Idaho Wine Merchant.