Today is the third International Grenache Day, a celebration of a grape which is (often anonymously) responsible for some of the most generous and appealing reds in the wine world.
As usual it’s hard to pin down a definitive style but it’s fair to say it’s usually full-bodied, soft and low in acidity. Some are pretty powerful - usually due to natural bedfellows like Syrah and Mourvèdre being blended in - others, like Côtes du Rhône, are easy-drinking. Its natural homeland is the Southern Mediterranean, especially France and Spain where it is called Garnacha but there are some fine examples from Australia, California and Washington State. It’s a great wine for this time of year.
As a starting point I asked my fellow tweeters on Twitter what their favourite match was. Unfortunately Twitter has managed to wipe off all but two pages of my @ replies so I can’t access them individually but I remember that pizza, rabbit and pork featured heavily. (I prefer Italian reds with higher acidity with pizza myself, I confess).
My favourite register for Grenache is braises and stews: long slow cooked roasts of pork or lamb that may even be a little bit fatty (shoulder of lamb and lamb shanks, for example). It suits daubes and stews with dark, winey sauces too
I like it with classic French bistro dishes such as rabbit and hearty Spanish or Portuguese country cooking. It can take a bit of spice - I think there’s a particular affinity with paprika and pimenton. I enjoy a Grenache with a goulash - and it would certainly go with milder curries like a rogan josh though I wouldn’t serve Grenache with lighter Indian dishes. They tend to go well with the slight sweetness of Moroccan tagines too.
A simple Grenache or Grenache blend like a Côtes du Rhône is a versatile match for many British pub classics like sausage and mash, shepherds pie and steak and kidney pie. Its absence of tough tannins also it a more accommodating match for cheese than many more structured reds, especially British regional cheeses such as Cheddar and Red Leicester. Grenache also pairs well with cooked dishes like macaroni cheese and with veggie bakes and lentil or bean-based dishes. Lighter, fruitier styles such as cheap Garnachas from Spain make good barbecue drinking - Grenache seems to like a bit of smoke.
A serious Grenache dominated red such as Châteauneuf-du-Pâpe is good with richer and gamier birds - I think it makes a great match for the Christmas turkey but you could also pair it successfully with guineafowl, pheasant or pigeon, especially if accompanied by caramelised roast root vegetables like carrots, beets and parsnips. Priorat can take even more robust dishes such as venison and oxtail as you can see from this earlier report though other grapes may have a more dominant influence.
There are of course also Grenache - or Garnacha - whites (characteristically earthy/Rhôneish) and strong, dry rosés - good partners for charcuterie and Spanish classics like paella and pork and beans and porty southern vin doux naturels like Maury, Banyuls and Rasteau which, like port, pair particularly well with chocolate, grilled figs and blue cheese (not all together, obviously!)
What not to pair with red Grenache? Well, it’s usually pretty high in alcohol so it wouldn’t be my ideal choice for steamed or raw dishes such as seabass or salads - even ones including meat - or subtle cuisines such as Cantonese or Japanese. It’s not great with citrus either which, for me, rules out Thai. And I think there are better matches for Italian food (most Italian ones) although Grenache is oddly good with dishes that contain cooked tomato and aubergine. But it’s a great seasonal wine - a warming, welcoming bottle to serve for the coming days of autumn and winter. Grenache should have its place in every cellar.
If you want to see who's pairing Grenache with what check out the International Grenache Day Google map.