REBEL GRAPE SOCIETY
THE PANACHE OF GRENACHE
Grenache is a very old traveler, traversing the globe as one of the world’s most planted varieties. It may originally be Spanish (Garnacha) or may come from Italy’s Sardinia; both countries mention a Grenache-ish grape in the 1500s and argue the name comes either from Italian vernaccia for “vernacular” aka “local grape” or from Catalan garnaxa for “regal gown”. Whatever its roots, it’s been around long enough to mutate a few times and create distinct varieties- most notably Grenache blanc, which is actually genetically identical to Grenache Noir. It shares the exact same DNA make-up but expresses itself as a white grape–ain’t nature grand?
Grenache truly loves the Mediterranean sun, showing its best in the Châteauneuf- du-Pape blends of the Southern Rhône, on the eastern shores of Spain, and on sun-baked Sardinia, not to mention how expert it is at playing rosé! It tends to be a heavy producer and late ripener, making higher alcohol wines that are usually light on color, soft on tannin and acid, but big on aromatics and velvety texture.
Grenache is no new-comer to California either, the first recorded plantings were made in the 1850s and then it boomed post-prohibition. Those hearty yields and ample sugars made it a super star throughout the Central Valley and a major piece of the sweet jug wine fad of the early 20th century. Grenache, along with its Rhôney blending buddies, gained new respect and notoriety in the ‘90s thanks to the Rhône Rangers movement, led by Randall Grahm (and a handful of other folk) who especially believed in the flash and sassy panache of Grenache.
We present two very different, very fresh approaches to the ancient grape:
- Rootdown crushes Grenache Blanc grapes and soaks them on the skins for six hours before a very hard pressing in order to extract tannin, texture and aromatics.
- Birichino throws out all the rules and plays with Grenache’s ability to do just about anything; making first a red, then a rose, and then blends and bubbles them for a peculiar pet-nat.