Celebrating single grape diversity: Grenaches du Monde 2018 & Grenache³

Today closes the 6th edition of Grenaches du Monde, an event that, much like Grenache itself has been a roving vagabond, seeing itself set up shop wherever Grenache has made its presence known. While starting up in Roussillon whose CIVR both started it and is still one of the main backers, it has also taken place in Campo de Borja, Spain, Sardinia, Italy, and now Terra Alta, Catalunya.

This is of course an interesting change up given that Terra Alta is known for producing White Grenache more than red (well, it’s about half/half) but it provides an interesting talking point given that most people, if familiar with Grenache will know the red version. But, Terra Alta is a region that’s been due a higher recognition for some time now whether it’s the whites or the reds that pulls you in.

The full event ran from April 11-15 with various sessions taking place around the territory of the Tarragona Province who put a great deal of time and money behind this. Tarragona (and even more so, Lleida) are often left out the glitter that comes to the Barcelona and Girona Provinces so they try to do what they can to remind people they exist, have lovely landscapes, and produce great wines. Given the nuttiness of spring in the wine trade, I couldn’t attend all the events but I did participate in the judging that was on Friday and Saturday. This two-day format was a big change as they had over 800 entries to the competition this year and it required more than a single day.

Many people may think Grenache a simple grape of just a bit of red fruit, astringency, and a potential wallop of alcohol but that’s just the primary building block of it. There is a wealth of elegance and beauty that can be coaxed from the grape via the right growing conditions and winemaking ability. This of course can be said of most any quality grape in the world but I feel that Grenache still has a bit of a battle in terms of winning converts who may have been turned off to it through lackluster examples of the past.

In judging the wines, we were more or less using the OIV system which means that we were tasting quite blind. We knew the vintage and if it was either a 100% Grenache or a Grenache blend but that was about it. This makes things insanely difficult as it’s very easy to taste a wine and think, “Ah yes, this is from _______.” and let that guide you where it may. This is one of the reasons I’m not that fond of the OIV system as it happened many times that were thought it was one region and judged it accordingly given that. You’re not supposed to do this, but it’s inevitable. For example, we were convinced that a certain number of rosés were Provençal when in fact they were from Sardinia, so well done my good Sardos.

There was another batch that seemed very much Priorat which were actually from Empordà. This doesn’t come as a shock as people will sometimes call, Empordà “Priorat by the sea”. It has yet to fully earn that moniker but it is definitely one of Catalunya’s most exciting regions that has defined its own character which while similar to the much larger Roussillon just to the north of it, can also be defined separately given its south Pyrenees location.

We were also presented with a range of dessert wines which again showed the great versatility of Grenache and the fact it’s a shame that dessert wines have fallen out of fashion. One particular wine (that I scored the highest) had the table of five judges convinced it was from Banyuls where Grenache-based dessert wine is the specialty of that appellation in Roussillon. It was very rewarding in the reveal to find that it was actually a DO Montsant wine from Coca i Fitó that I first tasted back in 2013 for the DO Montsant book and have loved every chance I’ve been able to taste it. Again, well done, Brothers Coca i Fitó.

All the Gold and Silver Medal winners have now been posted as well to get an idea of what was what.

Given all the separate takes on Grenache, one winery up in Roussillon called, Domaine Lafage decided to make something a bit more unifying called, Grenache³ which was then also entered into the competition. The premise is that they’ve taken Grenache grapes from vineyards from Calatayud Spain, Roussillon (Roselló), Catalunya, and then Rhône, France to create a wine under the extremely high-quality Geographic Indication of “Vin de la Communauté Europénne”.

Hopefully the italics really imparted proper sarcasm as this is actually the shittiest label that exists in the EU as it’s for creating a blend between any region in the European Union. For example, you usually see bulk affairs with this label wherein price is the tantamount consideration. But, it’s really the only thing they could do as while two of the vineyards are in France (yeah, the “Catalan” one is actually Catalunya Nord but that’s France today) it’s that block of grapes from Spain that stops it from being Vin de France.

These kinds of blends can often be problematic as you’re having very distinct regions battling each other and in the end it’s usually the case that neither wins. It’s very similar to online arguments in discussion forums or comment sections. There have been other vinous attempts like the Cat Negre and that showed how hard it is to get a linear result which is why I was quite surprised at what Lafage found in Grenache³. While a bit muddled on the palate, it’s actually very pleasant aromatically and for 12€, it’s reasonably priced for a wine of that region. Hmm, which “region”?

This was just a bit of fun in a vast sea of Grenache that I hope ultimately works to get the grape more on people’s minds as well as raise the profile of DO Terra Alta a bit more so they can continue their upward trajectory they’ve managed to maintain to date.

Domain Lafage – Grenache³ 2016
Red and black fruit in the nose, rosemary, stony, tea leaf, and a touch of earthiness. More potent in the mouth with cured strawberry and a touch lacking in acidity. Big boom of Grenache with a wealth of dark fruit. The mix works well in the nose and can potentially be expanded upon a bit more in the palate.
100% Grenache 15% 12€
* 88