Grenache is always the bridesmaid, never the bride. Recently, a group of top winemakers, viticulturists, journalists and scientists gathered in southern France, at the foot of Mont Ventoux (known for being one of the most gruelling ascents in the Tour de France), to see what could be done to nudge grenache towards the altar.
Typically supplemented with up to 13 grape varieties in France's southern Rhone Valley, grenache is most known for its leading role in producing Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Like many bridesmaids, grenache is willing and convivial, meaning it can be easy to produce and is often used to fill out other, tougher varieties. One of the challenges, argued the delegates, was that Rhone producers don't mention grenache on the bottle. To place it on the front label would buck decades of tradition but the winemakers were, nevertheless, urged to reconsider the practice of keeping grenache hidden.
The grape's medium colour, inherent raspberry fruitiness and soft tannins are beautifully suited for many Cantonese dishes but be sure to serve the wine slightly chilled. Here is a selection of grenache-based wines tasted at the symposium in France. Unfortunately, most are not yet available in Hong Kong.
Hewitson Miss Harry 2008, Barossa Valley, Australia
Savoury, juicy red berry fruit. Raspberry compote with floral or apricot notes. Soft round tannins, gentle, with balanced acidity. Characteristic warmth on the finish, with slightly grainy mid-palate tannins.
Available for HK$210 at City'super (tel: 2506 2888)
Henschke Johann's Garden 2005, Barossa Valley
Complex and layered concentrated berry fruit with chicory notes. Medium acidity. Slightly tart orange-peel note on entry. Interesting front palate tannins and freshness. Medium length.
Bonny Doon Le Cigare Volant 2005, California, United States
Earthy notes, light bodied, farmyard savouriness. Lean, restrained style with fresh acidity and a hint of warmth on the finish. An elegant, streamlined wine.
Yalumba Habermann Vineyard 2005, Barossa Valley
Medium-high intensity. Savoury notes with vanilla hints. Light clove, good fruit purity with cedar. Firm linear tannins. Medium finish, with cherry and berry flavours. Serve chilled.
Turkey Flat Vineyards 2006, Barossa Valley
Rustic bramble berry and cherries accented with dried orange peel.
Debra Meiburg is a master of wine