GARNACHA/GRENACHE GOES BIG AT TEXSOM
by Andrew Chalk
TEXSOM, the US conference that matches professional sommeliers with the producing side of the wine trade, finally resumed as an in-person event last week after an extended pandemic hiatus. Garnacha & Grenache European Quality Wines had a formidable presence at the show, putting the grape front and center.
At the Expo trade show that started and closed each day, as well as getting a 90-minute segment mid afternoon, the organization had a large booth right at the point where attendees entered the exhibit area from the instructional sessions. This guaranteed a large, fresh, and enthusiastic crowd. At each session, a new selection of wines was presented, giving attendees reason to come back each break. Over the two days (and one afternoon) of the show, over 40 different wines were showcased. I spoke to sommeliers who came by and there were lots of expectations that were exceeded.
One wine, the 2020 Château de Lou Secret de Schistes, Côtes Catalanes IGP, a grenache gris, was my favorite dry white of the show. The mouth texture, tight citrus flavors, and firm acid produced a perfect sensory balance. Interestingly, at the very same expo session staff introduced me to the Terrassous Rivesaltes Ambré 6 Hors D’Age, a transcendental vin doux naturel that was just as compelling, but as a sweet wine. Only later did I tear myself away when I discovered its older brother, 12 years old.
Perspectives on Garnacha and Grenache
Sofia Gonzalez, country manager for Spain for Garnacha and Grenache European Quality Wines took visitors through examples of wines at the expo to show the grape’s multiple expressions. Furthermore, some of the wines on offer had 5+ years of age and she used this to explain how they changed. Often, little or no new oak was used, she explained, allowing the wines to present a profile that was refreshingly different from many other red grape varieties in the US market.
Eric Aracil, Sofia’s French counterpart in this cross-border collaboration, explained that grenache originated in northeastern Spain around 150 BCE and expanded under the crown of Aragon to incorporate Roussillon, which is now in France. In the Roussillon, grenache is the most planted grape variety. In the area represented by Garnacha and Grenache European Quality Wines about 54% of the vine area is in France and 46% in Spain. He emphasized that the grape is very terroir sensitive. In the Roussillon about 35% of the grenache area is red grenache, 25% white, 20% gris, with the remainder pelud and alicante bouchet. Catalunya’s Terra Alta, by contrast, is a center of white production.
Both Sofia and Eric noted that garnacha/grenache is so versatile that it can be, and is, used to make all styles of wine from sparkling, through white, rosé and red, to dessert wines. Additionally, within those categories both light-bodied and heavy-bodied white and red wines are found. There was no better way to show examples of this than in the expo tastings.
Grenache/garnacha vines can live to a great age, over 100 years, and old vines, while shy producers, can result in wines that possess concentration of flavors and complexity that is often the source of the uniqueness and refinement in great wines.
A major draw for sommeliers were the sponsored lunches held each day. Garnacha and Grenache European Quality Wines had one of the eight held on the first day and it was a sellout. Attendees settled in for lunch at tables of ten with a large sample of offerings from the expo at each one. Sofia made a PowerPoint presentation to the group, highlighting some of key facets of the grape:
Garnacha is arguably the most eco-friendly grape in the world;
Garnacha sales in the US market have increased almost 50% in the last decade;
France and Spain account for most plantings, but the grape has proven itself to be remarkably versatile;
Garnacha is now found in six countries in Europe, and Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Canada, China, Mexico, Morocco, South Africa, Tunisia, and the United States;
A diversity of clones allow white, red, and pink wines to be made, including sparkling styles;
Expressions of the grape vary from light white to heavy red wines, with old vines producing very special wines;
France and Spain offer the wine from several PDO/AOP, and PGI/IGP designated areas of origin;
PAIRING WITH FOOD FROM AROUND THE WORLD
One of the most compelling slides in Sofia’s presentation was a matching of garnacha with food. Reproduced below, it shows the culinary versatility of garnacha.
PAIRING GARNACHA/GRENACHE WINE STYLES WITH FOOD
WHAT IS THE OLDEST VINE YOU HAVE EVER TASTED?
One of Sofia’s slides asked provocatively ‘What is the oldest vine you have ever tasted?’ That was a prelude to a 128 year-old vine Garnacha Centenaria 2020 from Coto de Hayas in the D.O. Campo de Borja and a hand-poured sip of a 1939 Château de L'Ou Maury Louanges,
an 89g/l sweet wine from nearly a century ago. Can grenache/garnacha age?
The heart of the conference was the program of education sessions. Interest in garnacha was evident from the fact that, independently of Garnacha and Grenache European Quality Wines, there was a session on Style Comparison: Pinot Noir and Grenache. The speakers were two Masters of Wine, Sarah Jane Evans and Clare Tooley. Like the lunch, it was a sellout.
Sarah Jane Evans noted that US winemaker Randall Grahm has said that the California Central Coast got it wrong planting pinot noir and should have gone with garnacha/grenache. The wines they offered made strong cases for both grapes (for example Faiveley Nuits-Saint-Georges 2018 as a pinot noir and Château La Nerthe Châteauneuf-du-Pape Rouge 2019 as a grenache) and it was nice seeing garnacha get a seat at the top table.
Partial support for this article was provided by Garnacha & Grenache European Quality Wines.