Grenache may be the most widely planted red grape in the world, but it doesn’t always get the respect it deserves. Too pale, too soft, too bland when made by itself and made cheaply, critics have said.
But it gets along with a little help from its friends.
By itself, grenache can make wines that are filled with fleshy strawberry and spice flavors, but sometimes lack color and tannin. Combined with two other red grapes, syrah and mourvedre, however, it is so highly regarded many call the result the holy trinity.
To grenache’s sweet fruit, syrah adds tannic backbone and peppery spice; mourvedre contributes deep color and cherry/chocolate flavors.
In France, the trinity makes such top wines as Cotes du Rhone, Chateauneuf du Pape and Gigondas.
In Australia, it makes a wide range of lush and lively wines — one of them, by winemaker Grant Burge in Barossa, actually called The Holy Trinity.
In California, where sunny weather gives grenache an extra kick, it and other Rhone-Valley grapes have given rise to an association called The Rhone Rangers. More than 150 wineries, including Chamisal Vineyards in Edna Valley, have banded together to perfect and promote the wines.
In Spain, where it probably originated, it’s called “garnacha.” In the Priorato region, southwest of Barcelona, it’s blended with additional grapes including cabernet sauvignon and merlot to make powerful wines that are approaching cult status.
For decades in that region, garnacha was lightly regarded. Then a new generation of winemakers decided to bring computerized equipment, state-of-the-art knowledge and ambitious new ideas — applying it to the schist-laden soil, digging terraced vineyards into slopes too steep for tractors. Its fans say it tastes exactly like blueberry pie.
Today grenache is grown from Spain to Israel to South Africa. It must be catching on.
• 2006 Torres Salmos Priorato, Spain (garnacha, syrah, carignan, cabernet sauvignon): hint of oak, inky hue, powerful blueberry and licorice flavors, full and smooth; $29.
• 2009 The Holy Trinity, by Grant Burge Winery, Barossa (grenache, shiraz, mourvedre): aromas of camellias, soft black raspberries, ripe tannins, smooth; $29.
• 2009 JV Fleury Chateauneuf du Pape, Rhone Valley, France: hint of oak, black cherry and anise flavor, smooth; $29.
• 2010 Peter Lehmann Shiraz/Grenache, Barossa: soft and sweet, with fleshy black cherries and ripe tannins; $13.
• 2009 Chamisal Vineyards Grenache, Edna Valley (100 percent grenache): hint of oak, bright flavors of strawberries, spice and licorice, ripe tannins and crisp acids; $38.
• 2011 Adobe Pink Blend, Middleton Family Wines, Paso Robles, Calif.: light pink hue, sweet strawberry flavors, soft and rich; $14.
Fred Tasker has retired from The Miami Herald but is still writing about wine for the McClatchy News Service. He can be reach at email@example.com.