South Africa's Internet Food Newspaper, Magazine and Blog

Changing seasons present new wine drinking possibilities… Grenache!

As we bid fair-well to Summer and winter fast approaches, the need for comforting stews and casseroles  rumbles in our stomachs.

While we reluctantly let summer go, I for one prefer the food and wine of winter months purely because it gives us all an opportunity to get stuck into some ballsy, serious reds and broader whites that face up to it’s more hearty fair.



Wine after all is made for food; it enhances and changes its flavour profile, making perfect sense to pair one with the other. A great source of inspiration and understanding of this co-dependant relationship for me, comes from a particular old-world wine region – The Rhone Valley. The southern Rhone benefits from constant sun and limestone laden soils well suited to red varieties like Grenache, Carignan, Syrah and for the whites Grenache Blanc and Clairette, to name just a few of the grape varieties that form this region’s wines.

In this land nature is generous and provides a rich source of delicious colourful produce. Fruit aroma’s of peaches, apricots and melons radiate and fuse with thyme, rosemary, lavender and honey nuances. And it is the comforting slow cooked and braised dishes that best suit the warm Grenache dominated wines of the region. Packed with all that sweet fruit, sunshine, spice and a savoury edge that marries superbly with meaty, gamey flavours of which hare, partridge and wild boar spring to mind.

chateau-saint-cosme-grenache-2010Grenache is a wonderful variety which is very underrated, it especially shines when it’s produced from old, low yielding vines found in the southern Rhone, giving that extra degree of concentration and oomph needed for the grape to excel. Because of its pale and light colour, you would be forgiven to think the wine does not pack a punch…. but it does. The alcohol levels this grape produces sometimes exceed 15.5 degrees, which is testament enough! The wines are medium to full-bodied and ooze with aromas that just make you want to get stuck in. Aromas of candied, juicy raspberries and cherries with characteristic notes of cinnamon spiced hot-cross buns mingle with smokey, herbal, tobacco notes. The rather tough, edgy tannins and a wee spike of acidity work well with the aforementioned meaty dishes.

A great example that captures all of this is the 2010 Gigondas by Chateau Saint Cosme. This estate, situated in the village of Gigondas, has been in the Barruol family since 1490 and the 15 hectares of vines they own average at 60 years old. The current custodian, Louis Barruol is the 14th generation to work this land.

The unique microclimate of this estate provides the perfect conditions for late ripening as it’s cooler than the surrounding areas, giving the grapes extra hang-time on the vines. The resulting wines are balanced, with a muscular minerality, lively acidity and taught tannins ensuring they have the necessary building blocks to age gracefully.

The 2010 Gigondas is a blend of 60% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 18 % Mourvedre and 2 % Cinsault. The 2010 vintage is characterised by freshness, giving structure and finesse to the wine.

Neil-Ellis-VS-Grenache-Piekenierskloof-2009A nose of cherry, strawberry and spicy gingerbread notes repeat on the palate. The tannins are taught, giving a solid wine with definition that delights and definitely needs to be laid down for 5 years before the full spectrum and harmony of this offering can be experienced.

South Africa has some wonderful examples of Grenache/Grenache based wines too. Neil Ellis make a stunner from grapes sourced from old vines in the Piekernierskloof region near the town of Citrusdal (Cape West Coast). Eben Sadie’s ‘Soldaat’ from his Old vine series is another great example of the merits Grenache has to offer.

Being a late ripening variety, Grenache needs plenty of sunshine to ripen fully, but the emphasis is more on sun rather than heat. The sugar levels can climb fast when temperatures are high, which results in flabby wines that lack definition and are uncomfortably high in alcohol. So as we prepare for the colder months, let us take comfort in knowing that we still can enjoy a glass of sunshine and bring warmth to any occasion.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 5.0/5 (1 vote cast)
Changing seasons present new wine drinking possibilities... Grenache!, 5.0 out of 5 based on 1 rating


Avatar of Guy Harcourt-Wood
Guy Harcourt-Wood (have 3 posts in total)
Guy Harcourt-Wood has always had a fascination with wine but it was only once he arrived in London in 1999 that his vinous career truly began. After working for various catering companies and trying his hand at photography, he happened one day to walk past Chez Bruce, on the Wandsworth Common and for some reason he felt drawn to the place. And this is where Guy’s life changed completely, as his great journey into wine began. Fortunately, as it transpired, his table service skills weren't up to much and Chez Bruce almost gave him the boot. But the incumbent sommelier needed an assistant, and thus a career in wine was born. After two and a half years at Chez Bruce Guy left with a great practical knowledge of fine wine and a WSET Advanced Certificate, for which he studied while in London. He went on to work at Michelin-starred Establishments of Nobu, Pied-a-Terre, Theo Randall and The Ledbury. Guy left the service industry another 7 years richer in valuable wine, food pairing and service knowledge, having worked with extensive wine lists from all regions of the world. Numerous wine trips to Europe served to deepen his insight into some of the finest wine producing countries in the world. Returning to the Cape in 2008, Guy began consulting to the trade and private clients, as well as hosting fine wine tasting events. Ultimately his love, and his nose for the greatest Burgundy, Barolo and other such fine things led him to the Great Domaines team, where he forms an integral part of this passionate team.