I’m nominating grenache as an all-round red. That’s mainly because it matches peppery sausages, venison steaks, beef and lamb casseroles, squash and onions roasted with herbs, cheese-topped bakes… the dishes of deep autumn.
Its reds are rarely subtle. Expect a robust alcohol level, bags of sweetly ripe, juicy plum (though a dry finish), a twist of black pepper or a smudge of cocoa powder. I once described grenache as “big, boisterous and joyful” in a wine guide; I wouldn’t change the wording now.
It thrives in hot, arid climates like the South of France, Australia, and, as garnacha, in many of Spain’s key red regions including Priorato, where it delivers massive, tannic wines of great longevity, and Rioja, where it is usually a blender with tempranillo.
In the southern Rhône, grenache is the major component in the cocktail of grapes used for châteauneuf-du-pape and is important in other appellations such as gigondas and côtes-du-rhône villages.
The authoritative tome Wine Grapes (Jancis Robinson, Julia Harding and José Vouillamoz, published by Allen Lane) has a compelling section on this, predicting it will maintain its position as one of the most planted grapes “in a world experiencing climate change and where drought seems an increasingly common phenomenon”.
Grenache lovers should seek out examples from California, Sardinia and South Africa, crack open GSM (grenache, syrah, mourvèdre) blends and revel in the rich, sweet, fortified wines it creates in southern France and Victoria, Australia. And grenache/garnacha comes in at all price points, as these three show.
Extra Special Old Vine Garnacha 2019
Carinena, Spain (14.5%, Asda, £6)
Great price for a no-nonsense, plummy and rich garnacha from north-east Spain. It’s made from the fruit of old vines so there’s a decent concentration of flavour and firm but balanced tannins. Peppered steak, please.
The Best Côtes du Rhône Villages 2019
France (14.5%, Morrisons, £8.25 down to £6.50 until Oct 25)
This is 60 per cent grenache blended with other Rhône varieties, soft and mellow. There’s an note of cooked blackberries and a savoury finish. A great offer, too. Crack it open for a slow-cooked beef casserole.
Ortega Ezquerro Garnacha 2018
Rioja, Spain (14.5%, jereboams.co.uk, £19.95)
An unoaked 100 per cent garnacha from Rioja, which sings out with blueberry, raspberry and sloe fruit flavours. It’s from high altitude, low-yielding vines and has a white-peppery zing to it. One for a rack of lamb or full-flavoured hard cheeses.