Celebrate International Grenache Day the French way with these grenache-based blends from the south of France.
The South of France represents some of France’s most underrated wines. Without a codified and consistent cru system or one particular grape variety, it can be a difficult place to get into and understand. But the truth about Roussillon, Languedoc, undiscovered Provence and the Southern Rhône is that there is incredible value there. This is the heart of organic French wine, and arguably the next frontier for the Vin de France category. There is an open mindedness that only comes from this area of France – and with it, truly great wines.
And while there’s not one singular grape variety that reigns supreme for everyone, there is one that’s consistent from the western fringes of the Roussillon all the way to the Rhône and beyond: Grenache. While it’s rarely featured as a single varietal, it is always a crucial part of the blends from this area of the world. Whether Grenache Blanc, Gris, or Rouge, there is something featuring this grape for every person – and every price point.
LA PATIENCE 2021, Domaine de la Patience, $13 [Astor Wines]
Often, when I think of white wines from the South of France, I assume they’ll be robust. Heavy. High alcohol and medium acidity, or a little flabby from Viognier. This wine surprised me – it’s the opposite. If I’d tasted it blind, I probably never would have guessed it’s a Grenache Blanc dominant blend that also features Chardonnay and Rolle. A bright, light, easy to drink wine, this is a great one for an apéritif or to pair with a fresh salad or even falafel (which is how I enjoyed it). Think lemon, garrigues, and stone fruit. So pretty!
MA Vertigo 2020, Mas Amiel, $23 [Astor Wines]
In a region virtually unknown to the average U.S. consumer, Mas Amiel is a name to know. MA is a Roussillon success story that represents a portfolio ranging from dry light whites to Roussillon’s famous Maury dessert wine appellation. This one is a bit more full bodied than Domaine de la Patience’s white thanks to some aging on the lees, but still has some bright lemon notes and balanced acidity. We really enjoyed a few glasses of this with some vegetarian quesedillas.
Occultum Lapidem 2017, Côtes du Roussillon, Domaine de Bila Haut (M. Chapoutier), $31 [Wine.com]
I’d be remiss in writing a post about Grenache-based wines if there wasn’t an appearance from the Chapoutier portfolio. When it comes to a white Côtes du Roussillon, this one is as powerful as the name might suggest, yet still refined. Light floral and mineral notes interplay with the fleshiness of strong, ripe apricot. This wine can stand up to a creamy sauce but has enough bright acidity not to weigh you down. Definitely a great one to keep in rotation for fall dinners at home.
Tabula Rasa 2019, Côtes Catalanes, Domaine des Enfants
I first tried this wine when my friend Jeff Harding, Wine Director at New York’s Waverly Inn featured it at a Roussillon Wine Tasting event and immediately ordered a few bottles for later. This is a true, full-bodied Roussillon Blanc. The dimension of aromas and textures in this wine is beautifully executed – think minerality, yellow peach, white flowers, and even a bit of breadiness from aging on the lees. If you can get your hands on it, don’t hesitate to add a few bottles to your collection.
Côtes Catalanes 2018, Res Fortes, $10 [Wine Château]
If you are looking for textbook Grenache Rouge, Res Fortes has got you covered. This red wine is a massive crowd pleaser but it also has an intimate restraint that makes it ideal for date night and pizza too. It’s perfectly balanced between red cherry, blackberry notes as well as notes from oak aging, like cocoa and coffee. It’s a wine that needs time to open up, a robust food pairing – or both. But, if you pair it right, it’ll go down faster than you think!
Mon Coeur 2020, Côtes du Rhône, J.J. Chave Sélection, $20 [Astor Wines]
In Hermitage, Jean-Louis Chave and his family are legendary for making some of the best wines within the appellation. And here’s my little secret: their wines from lesser-known appellations are just as spectacular. While they may not be meant for aging, they are just as meticulously crafted, and this Côtes du Rhône is certainly no exception. Pretty, soft, and incredibly food friendly, this Côtes du Rhione is one I hope to come back to again and again.
Le Chêne Noir, Côtes du Rhône Villages, Camille Cayran, $15 [WTSO]
Where the Chave Sélection Côtes du Rhône is playful, soft and fruit forward, this one from Camille Cayran is the opposite. The grapes for this wine come from the village of Cairanne and bear a power and complexity unlike any other wine on this list. This is a spicy, peppery wine that’s perfect with those late summer BBQ’d meats. Just goes to show you that Grenache blends are far from one dimensional!
Les Baux de Provence 2019, Mas de Gourgonnier, $18 [Astor Wines]
Talk about a wine that punches above its weight! This one is a stunner (and for that price you could – and should – easily buy a case for the winter). It’s also emblematic of Provence: while Grenache is in the blend, it’s accompanied by a handful of other traditional grape varieties, like Syrah, Mourvèdre, Carignan, and more. At first sniff, it’s heavy on dark berry aromas, but in the palate it opens up a whole other world of black pepper, olive, and garrigue vegetation. A beautiful wine to sip on while you watch summer trade its colors for fall.
All in all, Grenache-based wines make for great fall and early winter pairings. Whether its Grenache Blanc, Gris, or Rouge, the wines I’ve chosen above will certainly pack a punch this International Grenache Day. Santé!