Posts Tagged ‘Garnacha’

VIWF PRIMER #2: RHONE AROUND THE WORLD

February 8, 2017

Okay, the Vancouver International Wine Festival is now less than a week away, so my second primer – what to expect from wines made from two of my favourite red grapes, Syrah and Grenache!

I called this blog “Rhone around the World” because the Rhone Valley is the home of these grapes, and where they have become justifiably famous. Syrah is associated with the northern Rhone, where it makes some of the greatest and most long lived wines in the world – Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage and Cornas are the leaders. Look for pepper, dark cherries, earth, and licorice. No wood, lean but ripe, these wines can be amazing!

Grenache is from the southern Rhone and usually associated with Chateauneuf du Pape, Gigondas, Vacqueyras and a range of other appelations. The nose is the give away here – lots of dried French herbs (called garrigue), followed by rich red and black fruit, almost kirsh-like in concentration. Again, no wood, and almost as long an age profile as their norther cousins.

But when these two grapes are made elsewhere, the flavour profiles can be both the same – and different!

For Syrah, I am pleased to say that my home province of BC makes some beautiful Rhone-like versions! In Washington State and California, the wines can be riper – not jammy (see what follows), but not as lean, although still with no wood. In Chile, Italy and South Africa, there is way more earthiness and less fruit – not my favourite style.

But the biggest difference is when Syrah is made in a different style – as Shiraz! Famous in Australia, these wines show jammy, super-ripe blackberry and licorice fruit, almost sweet sometimes. I love the best of these wines, but they couldn’t be more different than the ones from France.

And Grenache? Well, I find it fascinating, because while southern Rhones from this grape are among my favourite wines, when they are made in Spain – I literally hate them! And I know why – oak!

When Garnacha (as it is called in Spain) is made, the oak seems to take almost all of the fruit of the wine, leaving herbs and wood behind. No thank you!

Interestingly, in Australia, they find a balance – more wood, but in the form of vanilla covered cherry fruit – and that I like.

What about the festival, then, in terms of wineries to look for?

For northern Rhone style Syrah, we have Jean Luc Columbo, Chapoutier and Ferraton. But don’t overlook a number of BC wineries as well, including Burrowing Owl, Cassini, Moon Curser, Moraine and NkMip. For the Shiraz style, check out Inland Trading (Cimicky, d’Arenberg, Kilikanoon, Penfold’s) from Australia, and La Frenz from BC.

As for Grenache? Aussie winery Yalumba makes some beautiful wines in the riper style. For the traditional southern Rhone style, check out Chapoutier – their Chateauneufs and Cote du Rhones are beautiful wines.

Enjoy!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

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Why Don’t I Like Spanish Reds as Much Anymore?

January 14, 2015

Okay, it happened again last night. I opened up a Spanish wine from my cellar – highly rated (95 points) – and the description by the reviewer was full of “fruit” references (which I love).

But then when I opened it…not much on the nose, more wood than fruit in the mouth. Reminded me of Bordeaux. Not my style!

And I know it isn’t a bad bottle…because these things have been happening for a couple of years now.

So what’s up?

Only a few years ago, Spanish wines were a key part of my cellar. Riojas took the lead, as they could age beautifully and the oak would never really overpower the fruit. Tempranillo based wines from other regions were there as well (Pesquera is still one of my favourite wines), as well as Mencia based wines (very Zinfandel like). Lots of fruit, not jammy, nice mix of herbs and earth.

But since then, everything seems to have changed.

It started with Garnacha (the Spanish version of Grenache). I quickly learned that one of my favourite grapes from the Rhone tasted way different when made into wine in Spain! Oak was part of the reason (made the wines too woody), but even the un-oaked ones seemed to lack fruit/have too much herbs and wood.

Then I started to notice a similar trend in some of the Rioja Reserva wines. After 5 or so years (when I normally start drinking them), there seemed to be less fruit than before, and – again – -more wood.

And then it seems to have been extended to just about all other Spanish reds (although I haven’t tasted a new Pesquera recently).

So what gives?

Probably two – related – answers.

First, the style of wine making may very well have changed overall. Bordeaux remains the reference point for many in the wine world, which means less fruit focus and more emphasis on wood, herbs and other flavours. So it could well be that Spanish winemakers are going more in that direction

The other reason is that my tastes – and maybe even my taste buds – have probably changed! Age does many things to people, and it should be no surprise that both what I taste (and what I like) has changed as I have gotten older.

The one thing that I am pretty sure it isn’t is that Spain is making bad red wine. Too many reviewers that I respect continue rate many of the wines highly for that to be the case.

But it shows, once again, how important individual style and taste is, and how those can change over time. The good news is there is lots of other wine out there for you – and I – to enjoy!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

Spain Makes a Come Back at Hart House Restaurant Dinner!

August 23, 2013

It’s nice to get a pleasant wine surprise, especially when you really weren’t expecting much!

In my case it was Spanish wines. Anyone who reads this blog or my Twitter feed knows that I have been increasingly disappointed by Spain over the last few years. Whether it is a change in style or my tastes (or both), most Spanish wines have been coming off as too woody and herbal for me — even the Rioja Reservas I used to love so much. As a result, I rarely buy them to drink or put in my cellar anymore, and the ‘Spanish’ space in the cellar is getting smaller and smaller.

But that may have all changed as of a dinner at Hart House Restaurant in Burnaby, BC on Wednesday. The theme was ‘Spain’, and we (my wife and I) were going more for the food than the wine, based on our recent experience at a Provence dinner (although the wine there was also very good).

The format of these dinners is a wine tasting from 6 – 7, followed by a gourmet buffet dinner from 7 onward — all for $55 a head (plus any wine you want with dinner). It is an amazing deal and, no, ‘gourmet buffet’ is not an oxymoron – how do options like gazpacho, mackerel, paella and roast leg of lamb sound? The food was very good, served family style outside in a beautiful setting.

So we were going for the food…as for the wine, well, I thought a few glasses of Cava (which my wife loves), maybe a half decent Rioja…and that would be it.

Boy was I wrong!

The two Cavas were basic but good values — the NV Segura Viudas Brut Rose and Codorniu Classico Brut. Nice bubbles to get the night started, and meeting expectations.

Then there were a few Roses, very dry, a bit tart, certainly no challenge to Provence or even BC.

Next up were the whites and, as expected, they were nothing to write home about. A couple of Ruedas were okay, especially the ’11 Basa by Rodriguez, but at about $20 retail ($42 on the wine list), I couldn’t say it was worth it.

All that was left was reds…so I took a deep breath and headed over to the first table. And…wow!!!

First up was a 2005 Rioja Reserva from Lopez de Haro. I sniffed — hmm, nice vanilla and currants! But I expected wood and herbs to follow in the mouth — but nope! More vanilla covered ripe black currants, with dusty tannins! It could have been a mid-level California Cabernet! And about $25 retail ($46 on the list). A really nice wine!

They had another red wine, so I tried that too… it tasted younger, but maybe even better! When the guy told me it was Garnacha, I just about fell over…it tasted like a Cotes du Rhone! Which, when he showed me where it came from (the northeast corner of Spain, almost on the French border), made sense. The wine, by the way, was the 2011 Proyecto Garnachas Moncayo (from Ribera del Queiles). And it retails for about $25 as well.

And so it went! Another very nice Rioja Reserva (2005 from Beronia), a toned down version of the Los Rocas Garnacha…and then the star of the night! A 2010 named Pasion del Bobal from Utiel-Requena. It was amazing – big, ripe and smooth! Afterwards I found out Parker gave a previous vintage 91 Points, and I can see why! We both had a glass at dinner.

As we were heading home, I was trying to decide what the night’s wine experience meant.

That I should go back to tasting Spanish reds was the obvious learning. But perhaps more importantly, the lesson might be never to give up completely on a wine!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

2013 New Year’s Wine Resolutions

January 9, 2013

Happy New Year and welcome to the first wine blog of 2013!

I always try and spend a little time thinking about any “wine resolutions” I have to start a new year, so here are few for your consideration:

1. Drink my white wines young

This is a continuation of a resolution from last year, as I started to find that many of the white wines in my cellar were getting too “old” before I drank them. In particular, the Chardonnays had gotten so golden and oaky that I couldn’t taste the fruit anymore! So “drink’em young” is the motto for white wines, with the exceptions of Rieslings and Gewurztraminers.

2. End the Garnacha and oaked-Malbec experiment

Last year, one of my resolutions was to “suck it up” and try more Spanish Grenache-based wines, as they offer tremendous value (according too many critics). But…well…it didn’t work. Something about the way the oak integrates into these wines just doesn’t work for me. And it is the same thing with oak-aged Malbecs – the fruit seems to get lost in the wood. So, bye-bye to these wines!

3. Avoid the red Bordeaux temptation

I was successful in this one last year, and vow to repeat it. Given the style of most Bordeaux – or at least the ones I can afford – I just don’t like the woody, herbal, lean style of these wines. Even those rated highly and said to age for years just seem to get woodier over time. So no matter the accolades and scores, I will not go there again this year!

4. Spend a little more per bottle on wines I really like

I had a number of older Rhone wines (Syrah and Grenache-based) as well as Barolos and Barbarescos over the holidays, and realized once again how much I love these wines when then get to be 10, 15 and even 20 years of age! The challenge for me over the last few years, however, is the prices for most of them (including even Chateauneuf du Pape) have skyrocketed over my $50 a bottle limit, so I haven’t bought many. Well, without breaking the bank, I am going to change that this year! As I get older, I want more of these wines around to drink…so if it means spending $60, $70 or even $80 on a very highly rated wine that will age that long, I am going to do it!

5. Write a wine book on the best BC wines

Finally, I have been thinking for years about writing a wine book specifically focused on the BC wineries – and wines – that I think are the best. Well, this is the year I am going to write it! Watch for it on my website in either the spring of summer of 2013.

So there you go – five wine resolutions for 2013. Now, on with the year!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com