Serious Grape: Grenache Blanc
Today we wind up our Grenache series with six wines made from Grenache Blanc. This grape probably developed from a mutation in red-skinned Grenache—the same way Pinot Gris arose from Pinot Noir. Grenache Blanc is common in southern France, where it's blended into white Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Côtes du Rhône wines. (One of our favorite boxed wines, From the Tank, is 100% Grenache Blanc from the Rhône.) Grenache Blanc is also found in Spain and increasingly in the U.S.
Grenache Blanc wines tend to have a richness and nutmeggy spiciness that's perfect for a cool evening. Pair a glass with herb-rubbed roast chicken, pork chops (served with fennel or apples), or cassoulet, if you're ambitious.
When we think of Grenache Blanc, we think of hearty, cool-evening white wines with notes of pears and cider, golden raisins and sage. The Perrin et Fils Chateauneuf-du-Pape Les Sinards Blanc 2006 is emblematic of this style: full-bodied and pungent, with hints of peach schnapps, tarragon, and lightly spiced applesauce. It's supple and elegant, rich and warming. This wine could carry us into fall: serve it with braised rabbit in mustard sauce or a butternut squash soup. (About $35, imported by Vineyard Brands, find this wine here or here)
A lighter French option came from Domaine des Schistes in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of Southern France. Their Les Terrasses Blanches 2008 Côtes du Roussillon Blanc has notes of pear, dried apples, tarragon, lemon peel, and wet rocks. It has a nice acidity, but a bit of alcohol heat on the finish. As we tasted, we were reminded of honey-lemon candy and a hint of seawater: pair this one with spaghetti and clam sauce for a hit. (Imported by VOS Selections, more information here.)
Our favorite of the bunch, though, was definitely Anglim Winery's 2008 Red Cedar Vineyard Grenache Blanc. While most of the other wines felt a little out of balance, with a bit too much alcohol for our taste, Anglim's Grenache Blanc is beautifully integrated, with luscious fruit, sublime creaminess, cleansing acidity, and steely mineral notes. It's perfumed with flavors of poached pears, fennel, and cinnamon-apple compote, as well as a hint of jasmine. Serve this elegant wine with scallops or oysters and prepare to swoon. ($28, find this wine here.)
More from California
Tablas Creek in Paso Robles is a collaboration between the Perrin family (who made the Chateauneuf-du-Pape mentioned above) and Robert Haas of Vineyard Brands, with French vines imported from the Perrin estate. The Tablas Creek 2006 Grenache Blanc has hints of cinnamon and nutmeg—we were reminded of apple cider donuts dipped in cinnamon sugar. With green-apple tartness to balance, and notes of almond and pear, our only complaint about this wine is that the alcohol was a little high--15.3%, which threw the flavors a little out of balance. (Around $25, imported by Vineyard Brands. Find this wine here.)
While we didn't adore Bonny Doon's Ca' Del Solo Grenache Blanc 2008 quite as much as we loved their delicious vin gris, it's an interesting wine, with earthy chanterelles and apple cider reduction on the nose, flavors of cantaloupe and honeydew with a tart squeeze of lime juice. This wine has some gravel notes and a slick of honey on the finish. There's a seawatery savoriness to it; we'd love to try it with sushi. We also got a chance to taste Bonny Doon's Vinferno, a rich dessert wine made from Grenache Blanc and Roussanne, which tasted of apples, honey, and thyme, with hints of grass and pineapple. ($22 and $20, find these wines here.)
The Bokisch Vista Luna Vineyard Garnacha Blanca 2008 was the ripest-tasting of the group. This wine has pear notes and unexpected flavors of tropical fruit: we noticed guava, pineapple, and even coconut, with a hint of almond or stone fruit pits. The alcohol, again, was a little much for us. ($16, find this wine here.)
Disclosure: All wines listed here were provided as review samples.
About the author: Maggie Hoffman writes about beer, wine, and vegetarian food for Serious Eats. She also writes about cooking in a tiny New York kitchen for Pithy and Cleaver.