Sep 22: Celebrated every third Friday of September, the International Grenache Day celebrated since 2010, did not miss the beat despite Covid-19, with the countries producing or enjoying the famous signature grape of Northeast Spain and Rhone Valley in France joining the subdued global celebrations, writes Subhash Arora who opened a bottle of his favourite Borsao Tres Picos 2017 and enjoyed it with dinner though he would have also liked to start with a bottle of Sula The Source Rose Grenache
An email last week from my Grenachista American friend Nicole Rolet, partner in Chene Bleu, a beautiful winery in Mont Ventoux on top of a hill in Rhone Valley, from where you cherish a beautiful view of the mountain and the valley all around, inviting and exhorting the Grenache lovers to celebrate the 11th International Wine Day on 18 September, set me planning a symbolic gesture to celebrate this unsung hero of the wine world.
Nicole Rolet had co-hosted the first Grenache Day Symposium in June 2010 at her wine estate, attended by 270 international wine personalities from 22 countries, like Steven Spurrier, Stephen Henschke, Michele Bettane (co-chairman), Robert Joseph. Michael Fridjohn and Reva Singh, Chief Editor of Sommelier India. Several Masters of Wine including Tim Atkins, Debra Meiburg, Sara Jane Evans, Pancho Campo (then MW) were there too. Even George Riedel who had designed a special Riedel glass to enjoy Grenache exclusively, was present. A Grenache Association was formed and it was decided to celebrate Grenache Day every third Friday in September.
As emphasized at the venue in La Verriere where Blue Chene is located, Grenache is the unsung hero of the wine grape world. Planted widely throughout the world including India by Sula Vineyards, it has the history of production in Rhone Valley including Chateauneuf du Pape and Spain where it is said to have originated in Aragon and grown widely in several parts, more notably in Rioja and Priorat where it is used in blending. It is also grown in the US, Italy, Australia, South Africa etc.
Sula The Source Grenache Rosé
Grenache can be made in full red as a varietal, or in blends. Grenache Blanc is used to make white wine while it is also popular as a Rosé variant. Sula makes a beautiful Provence-looking Rose in The Source label- my personal favourite with low alcohol at 12.5% and selling for around Rs. 1000. The light pink coloured dry wine with aromas of white peach, citrus and tropical fruits, has a luxurious mouthfeel, vibrant acidity and long finish. It is very versatile with salads, fish and poultry and of course vegetarian meals. The easy drinking wine beats the other Indian Rosé wines cold and is perfect with Indian food. I always find myself veering towards it at SulaFest.
Spanish Borsao Tres Picos for Grenache Day 2020
During my visit to Chateauneuf du Pape last September where I had the privilege to be welcomed into the Brotherhood at a formal dinner, I was presented with a magnum of Chateauneuf du Pape at the Ceremony. I also bought a few more bottles to celebrate the Grenache Day with members of the Delhi Wine Club which I founded in 2002 and celebrated its 300th wine event as the President this year. But nature had its own plans with Covid-19 locking us up in our houses, leaving me no choice to celebrate it by myself, opening a bottle of Tres Picos DO Campo de Borja Grenache 2017 with family at dinner.
Tres Picos- a Spanish Gem
Before my visit to France, I had been to Germany for the Summer Tasting of Mundusvini 2019 where post-judging activities are organised every day. One such outing with my wife who also accompanied me on the trip, was a Tasting of DO Campo de Borja wines organised by Wines of Spain. It also included the Tres Picos from Bodega Borsao.
DO Campo de Borja is in Zaragoza, in Aragon in the North-eastern region of Spain. It was written about in 1203 but this area in the southern part of Navarra has been making this wine using Garnacha as the principal grape by monks for almost 3 centuries, right up to the 19th century. The area was recognised as DO Campo de Borja in 1980 and encompasses 16 municipalities including Borja.
Today it is one of the best known areas of producing Garnacha (Grenache) making concentrated, complex, powerful and very aromatic wines, found typically in Tres Picos made by a co-operative Borsao, founded in 1957 and highlighted as one of the wines at the Tasting. It is made from grapes from 30-50 year-old vines giving very concentrated vines with very low yield as low as 2 tons/acre.
The quality and characteristics of the DO Campo de Borja is due to the altitude of vineyards. In the lower altitudes of 350-450m temperatures are the highest. Garnacha ripens early, producing structured wines with higher alcohol levels. The climate is continental with cold and dry winds influencing the weather in winter, with Mediterranean influence in summer.
Tres Picos is being imported by Agnetta International and retails for around Rs. 2700- 3500 in Delhi, Gurgaon- an excellent price for the quality I picked up a couple of bottles at Rs. 2700 but one was happily consumed within a few days while the other was somehow left buried in the cellar and forgotten. Agnetta was not the first one to import Borsao wines. Another budding importer Manash Wines (now defunct) had imported it along with other Spanish wines in 2008. I had tasted it along with his complete portfolio that included Tres Picos.
My Tasting Notes had found it ‘decidedly the best wine from his portfolio. The Tres Picos 2006 Borsao, made from 100% Garnacha grapes which grow very well in the warm areas of this region, was full of black cherries, ripe plums and dark berry fruits. The tannins were slightly on the higher side, a hallmark of the grape. The flavour was persistent right till the back end of the palate and left a long impression after every sip. Again a good accompaniment with the smoky cheese, it would be a serious food wine, the high 14.5% well integrated alcohol level notwithstanding.’
Wine with dinner
Stored at 13°C, I double decanted the bottle for an hour and poured it at 15°C (Grenache is recommended to be served at a cooler temperature of 14-18°C). It had intense black cherry red colour, with perfumed nose of black fruits like plums and black olives with notes of tobacco, vanilla and some floral hints. It was well rounded dry wine with ripe tannins and balanced acidity and a long and spicy end. It opened up nicely in the glass.
It was an excellent match with Buffalo-styled chicken wings coated with a special sauce with a touch of sweetness matching with the initial burst of sweet flavour in the wine. Mushrooms in the Sautéed mushroom-peas on the side being a natural companion for Grenache, made it a simple but perfect dinner to celebrate with my wife who became a wine convert after the visit to that Tasting in Germany, followed by the trip to Chateauneuf du Pape (CDP) where we tasted a trove of Grenache based CDPs as well as in Gigondas, finally culminating into a visit to Chen Bleu. I had met Nicole a couple of times earlier at the World Wine Symposium at Villa d’Este and was really impressed by her organic wines made primarily from Grenache grapes. So I took up on her invitation to visit the winery last year.
My plans to visit Chateauneuf du Pape this year were scuttled by the deadly virus. But I hope to visit the area again and pick up a few bottles and perhaps visit Chene Bleu again to help me celebrate the International Grenache Day on a bigger scale next year, starting of course, with The Source Sula Grenache Rose, making it truly an international event, in the company of Tres Picos from Borsao, Spain and the beauties from CDP.
Indian Wine Academy also founded the Indian Wine Day in 2017 in collaboration with The Lalit Group of Hotels to promote Indian wines and has firmed up 16 November as The Day and has celebrated 3 years already with the 4th edition planned on 16 November 2020-editor.