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Delhi Wine Club

Posted: Friday, 11 June 2010 10:19

Symposium: Grenache Seeks its Rightful Place

The First International Grenache Symposium held in La Verrière in Provence on June 5-6 to discuss the future and raise the profile of the Unsung Hero of the Red Wine World , with Michel Bettane and Steven Spurrier, the Co- Presidents of the Symposium summarizing specific steps to be taken to help the varietal get its rightful place.

When you think of Grenache, you are likely to think of Rhone or Roussillon; it is an important blend in several interesting wines including Chateau Neuf du Pape. You could also think of Rioja, Aragón, Navarra or Priorat, depending on which side of the Pyrenees you are enjoying your red wine. You should not be surprised if you meet purists in Spain who swear that Garnacha has nothing to do with the Grenache from France-after all, the grape’s origin are Spanish!.

You could be a supporter of the grape from Australia, California or Washington State, South Africa or Italy or even Morocco or Israel where it has taken roots recently. You could be excited even if you were a producer in India where the hot weather variety is at an experimental stage and is likely to yield impressive results during the coming decades.

The ubiquitous grape is the fourth largest grown red grape variety in the world; some claim it is the largest grown varietal. It can shine as a blend or a varietal; it can make dry and spicy wines as well as sweet wines. One can make excellent or cheap wines with the varietal,  but are generally great value-for-money wines- yet the grape has not received the recognition it deserves.

It is no surprise then that about 270 delegates from 23 countries gathered last weekend to attend a series of panel discussions and tastings designed to highlight the qualities and unique strengths of this unsung red wine variety. They included producers like Prue and Stephen Henschke, Alessio Planeta, Michel Chapoutier, Alvaro Palacios, Pierre Perrin from Chateau. de Beaucastel, Charles Back (of Where Goats do Roam fame) and the ‘Rhone Ranger’ Randall Grahm from Bonny Doon Vineyards. 

Journalists like Tim Atkin MW and Robert Joseph, British wine writers, Neil Martin of eRobert Parker, Francois Mauss- Founder President of Grand Jurée Européen and World Symposium of Wine, Debra Meiburg MW from Hong Kong, Charles Metcalfe; co-founder and co-chairman of International Wine Challenge and  Michael Fridjhon, South African wine critic were but a few of the delegates present.

Co-Presidents Steven Spurrier and Michel Bettane introduced a series of seven panels, each made up from an international field of experts who identified the strengths, weaknesses and opportunities for Grenache in their specialist fields.

Jancis Robinson who could not attend says, ‘It is high time that Grenache/Garnacha enjoyed some time wallowing in the spotlight of international attention. In my view some of the world’s best value-for-money wines are made from Spanish Garnacha, which is certainly of Spanish or Aragon origin’. No wonder that Spanish wines got tremendous exposure at various tastings and at the gala dinner organised by The Wine Academy, Spain.

Pancho Campo MW, President of the Academy moderated a round table conference which consisted of well-known wine personalities- Quim Vila, Alfredo Arribas, Alvaro Palacios, Enrique Basarte, Telmo Rodriguez, Montse Nadal and Concha Vecino. He talked about the concept of 3Ps- Pleasure, price and partnership. There was also a debate on emerging markets, new consumer markets, current market analysis in demographic and geographic terms, definition of new consumer profiles, etc. Consultant enologist Zelma Long, and Randall Grahm were a couple of panel discussions moderators.

There seemed to be a consensus that the multi-faceted personality of Grenache faced challenges that were to be taken on priority, with Michel Bettane announcing an action plan for each segment of the trade. Addressing professional associations like Inter-Rhóne and Wines of Spain, he stressed that there was an immediate  need to protect pockets of old vine Grenache which are currently being ripped up. Also there was a plea for the Old World producers to focus on consumers and let them know that Grenache plays a major role in many of their best loved wines.

Calling for a change Bettane stressed that every Grenache producer must fight to force the regulatory bodies to include Grenache on the back labels when used in the blend. He also urged high profile producers to support the smaller ones to raise awareness of the ageing potential of this often underrated variety.

Nancy Gilchrist MW proposed an International Grenache Day. Plans are now underway to raise awareness and support for this event, due to take place on Friday 24 September, when retailers and restaurateurs will be encouraged to run special offers, tastings or menus designed to showcase the quality and versatility of this variety.  

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