One of my best friends in the wine world is Doug Margerum, of Wine Cask and now Margerum Wine Company fame. Over the years Doug has taken on a love affair with Rhone wines, dating back to his youth and trips to France's Rhone Valley.
Recently I heard about the upcoming Grenache Symposium, which happens next month in France. I asked Doug, who plans on attending the event, some questions about Grenache and he had this to say:
Is Grenache supposed to be dark in color?
Margerum Grenache is made using and emphasizing long-time Burgundian sensibilities in the approach to, and in the techniques used - small open top, cool fermentation, low extraction, elegance, and fruit emphasis. Margerum understands that Grenache is a thin skinned grape and it is most expressive in this "velvet glove in and iron fist" style. In a group tasting this wine could be overlooked but in the reality of “wine and the table” this is the wine that most satisfies, pairs with food - doesn’t dominate - and complements. This wine will not knock you over the head - it is NOT dark, it is NOT big, but it IS a supple expression of Grenache that is intellectual and compelling (if you study the wine) in its expression.
How does Grenache work as blending grape?
Used as a component in nearly all Southern Rhône red blends, Grenache is probably most notable as the base varietal for Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Cotes du Rhône and Gigondas. Margerum M5 is a Grenache based wine that is complemented with four others - Syrah, Mourvèdre, Counoise, and Cinsault and is an homage to these extraordinary wine styles.
Margerum makes a uniquely styled Grenache rose. A saignée of Grenache blended with 28% of the improved RED Grenache (the ratio of skins to juice results in a more deeply flavored wine) from barrel. We make this a dry serious Rosé that has tannin, complexity, and matches well with food.
Is this true? On its own, Grenache makes fleshy, heady, very fruity wines in their youth. They tend to age rapidly, showing tawny colors and prone to oxidation or maderization after only a relatively short time in bottle. The general character and mouth feel of Grenache wines are more distinctive and identifiable than any particular aromas or flavors. http://www.winepros.org/wine101/grape_profiles/grenache.htm
We don’t believe this either: The Grenache grape is relatively low in both pigment and malic acid, and oxidizes readily. Although some 100% varietal wines are produced from Grenache, particularly in Spain's Rioja and from some "old vines" plantings in California, it is mostly used to "fill out" red blends and softens harsher partners, such as Syrah and Carignan. http://www.winepros.org/wine101/grape_profiles/grenache.htm