Sunday, September 30, 2007

Grenache vs. Shiraz vs. Mourvedre

I relish the opportunity to open more than one bottle. This is not a drunken quest - Lamb's Navy Rum is cheaper and more efficient - but to REALLY learn about wine you need to have "context". So when my my brother-in-law bought over a French grenache, I decided an impromptu head-to-head tasting of the three classic Rhone red varietals was in order. The theme set, I chose the following wines to taste. The wines were decanted approx. 45 minutes before dinner, served "blind", and enjoyed (very much) over the rest of the evening.

2002 D'Arenberg "The Twenty-Eight Road" (McLaren Vale)
2004 Chateau Coupe Roses "Granaxa" (Minervois)
2003 E. Guigal (Crozes-Hermitage)

On my left was the 2002 D'Arenberg "The Twenty-Eight Road", made from 100% mourvedre. Pure mourvedre is a rather rare find, especially outside of France and Spain, so I just "had to have it". The darkest of the three wines, it was a deep purple with some brick red at the edge. It started pruney and leathery, with dense black cherry fruit, some vanilla. Very aromatic, but perhaps a touch less complex on the nose than the other two. Rich, with beautiful mouthfeel, nice velvety tannins, ample acidity and terrific balance, it was not a "boorish" mourvedre like the Cline or the Terre Rouge. I loved the juicy fruitiness, but it was not overdone - the tannin and acidity gave it nice structure.
cork. 14.5% alcohol
Score: 17.5/20

Price: C$38.75 (SAQ)

In the middle was a glass of the 2004 Chateau Coupe Roses Granaxa, a 100% grenache from the Minervois region in the south of France. A pale ruby red, the lightest of the three, it was very aromatic, revealing smoke and oaky notes, followed by roses, grendine, mint, truffle and wet fur. The alcohol was noticeable on the nose and palate, with dry, peppery, tannins in the mouth, but surprisingly "un-fruity" for a grenache. Well made, interesting, but a bit less polished than the other two wines. Some length. I would drink this now after a modest decant.
cork. 13.5% alcohol
Score: 17/20
Price: $21 (SAQ)

On my right was a glass of the 2003 Guigal Crozes-Hermitage. A nice cherry red, it was very meaty and woodsy on the nose, followed by violet, raspberry, liquorice, tobacco and almonds - very attractive. Bone dry with velvety tannins, this medium-bodied red showed tremendous poise, with everything in balance. This will keep, but it is ready now. Yes, you have seen this wine before, but I gave it an extra half point this time - a longer decant? a better pairing? The best thing about this bottle - I have four more in my cellar. Note the low alcohol...
cork. 12.5% alcohol
Score: 17.5/20

Price: $26 (LCBO)

All three wines were beautiful, and paired very well with the butterflied leg of lamb marinated in olive oil, fresh rosemary and garlic. I would not be disappointed to have any of these again, although I have to give the value prize to the Guigal, which coincidentally was the first decanter empty. Life is good.

PS - It was not that easy to pick out the three varietals blind, but one taster got it right... :)


Anonymous said...

we just tried three grenaches . one from the old world (spain)and two from thenew world US and Australia) .
From Spain ..Las Rocas 2005
From Australia Torbreck STEADING 2003
USA Sine Qua non Atlantis grenache /05
All Very Different . Why???

Joe said...

Hi anon, there could be many reasons for that - different vintages (the Aussie was a bit older), different winemaking techniques, different growing conditions, old vs. new oak, etc. Another point - in some regions (New World) you can call a wine "Grenache" and blend up to 20 or 25% of another grape. So many factors that make these different - that's why exploring wine is such fun - Cheers!

Sarah said...

Hi Joe, I hope you can help me!

I've always drank Pinot Noir, not because I'm educated in the wine area, but because my taste buds tend towards the super light reds.

I recently in Napa had a 2011 Miro Cuvee Sasha GSM 67% Grenache, 25% Mourvèdre and 8% Syrah wine that was the very best wine I've had (unexperienced) since I started drinking wine.

I believe this is due to the light nature of the wine. The bartender told me prob due to the grenache. However, I went to try a bottle of grenache from spain and it was heavy and dark.... did not like.

Can you help stir me towards the right direction? Would love to step outside of my pinot pattern and try other varieties. THANKS!!

Joe said...

Hi Sarah - sorry, been away from this site for a while... I never think of Grenache as lighter - they tend towards bigger fruit and lighter tannins, so that may be your inclination towards that Miron. (Grenache is often blended with Mourvedre and/or Syrah for more tannic "weight") I would think that the Miro you had (I've never tasted) was lighter more due to winemaker style than the grape itself. Lighter styled Grenache is most often found in the Rhône Valley region of France, Spanish Grenache is heavier. Ask your store owner for a good wine from the "Cotes du Rhône", Vacqueyras, Gigondas or Chateauneuf du Pape and see if you get the same vibe. Also try any Bonny Doon wines, they tend to make lighter styled reds (I particularly like the Cigare Volant!)