Celebrate International Grenache day with a glass of red

Wine tasting at Yalumba, Angaston SA for Wine Selector Magazine. Pic James Knowler / @jkcrewphotos

Wine tasting at Yalumba, Angaston SA for Wine Selector Magazine. Pic James Knowler / @jkcrewphotos - Credit: Archant

Wine expert Liz hails the grape that’s the main ingredient of priorat, chateauneuf-du-pape, and now delicate Yalumba reds from Australia’s Barossa Valley

September Wine recommendations and GrenacheYalumba's 1889-planted grenache vines

September Wine recommendations and GrenacheYalumba's 1889-planted grenache vines - Credit: Archant

There are annual “days” celebrating everything from chocolate to cats, from whistleblowers to (embarrassingly, on my own birthday) toilets, and, more relevantly, wine grapes.

Next of those, on September 18, is International Grenache Day.

Understandably in current circumstances, there’s not a lot happening compared with last year’s 10th anniversary bonanza. But there are plenty of reasons to mark the day at home.

Grenache noir (garnacha, garnaxta, alicante and aragones in Spain, cannonau in Sardinia, tai rosso and tocai rosso in the Veneto) has spread far from its Spanish or Sardinian homeland – most notably to California and Australia.

It reflects the place where it grows and its flavours are appealing, approachable, yet serious. And in climate-crisis times, it’s a valuable grape, happy in heat and drought.

In France it’s the main grape of châteauneuf-du-pape and much côtes du rhône, and in Spain of priorat. The white and gris (pink-skinned) siblings shine especially in Roussillon, which also offers fine dry grenache reds and rich vins doux naturels.

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European wines, though, were not the inspiration for this article. That came from Kevin Glastonbury, maker of Yalumba reds in Australia’s Barossa Valley, whose icon wine Tri-Centenary comes from vines planted in 1889.

Venerable as they are, those vines aren’t the oldest grenache in the world – they bow to an 1848 planting on nearby Cirillo estate, likely origin, through cuttings, of the 820 surviving Yalumba vines.

Grenache has long been known for hefty, sweet, high-alcohol wines; in the past it was Australia’s most-planted red grape and emerged in almost every style, from sparkling to fortified. But Glastonbury and an increasing number of like-minded growers want a different, lighter, more fragrant result. Not exactly a rival to pinot noir, but hinting at the great burgundian grape’s delicacy.

He picks before his grenache reaches OTT ripeness, uses only natural yeasts and eschews new oak. Tri-Centenary stays gently macerating on its skins after fermentation – for 40 days, perhaps, or 240. All depends on the vintage, and Glastonbury’s instinct. He aims for ever more complexity, vineyard expression and grape character, though what he particularly celebrates is grenache’s “drinkability”.

To join him in that on September 18, buy Tri-Centenary 2012 (£36-£53, uk.cruworldwine.com, hedonism.co.uk) or try Yalumba Samuel’s Collection Bush Vine Grenache (around £17, flagshipwines.co.uk, frazierswine.co.uk, winedirect.co.uk). Cirillo 1850 Grenache 2013 is £39-£53 (winebuyers.com,The Quality Chop House in Farringdon Road, or email info@gbwineshippers.co.uk).

There are plenty more fine Barossa and McLaren Vale grenache producers (as there are in Spain and France) – thevinorium.co.uk offers Artisans of Barossa Grenache Project 19 six-bottle case (£155).