We always thought rosé was the most underrated wine. Then we remembered albarino, mourvedre, riesling and, well, anything but cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, pinot noir and merlot. There are a lot of underrated wines that, despite their value, escape the attention of consumers. As much as we flap our gums about buying them, consumers stay away because missing out on their daily plonk is like missing a segment of “Jeopardy!”
It may then be futile to recommend grenache, the most underrated wine at least in this week’s wine column. But we’ll try. Grenache can be light enough to sip or serious enough to complement beef. It is thin-skinned and thus light in color and body, but it offers a lot of fresh fruit flavors. Strawberry, raspberry, plum and cherry flavors are often joined by leather and spice. In short, lots of flavor without those mouth-puckering tannins. For that reason, grenaches are great matches to grilled chicken, pasta, burgers, pizza and even some fish.
Grenache is one of the most versatile grapes in the world and often plays an important role in blends. In Australia it is blended with shiraz and mourvedre. It is popular in Spain, where it is known as garnacha. In southern Rhone Valley, it is part of the fantastic blends of Chateauneuf du Pape, Vacqueyras, Gigondas and Cotes du Rhone. Provence uses grenache for its best rosés. But the grape also does well by itself.
Here are several good wines we recently tasted that include grenache or are made entirely from grenache:
Qupe Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard Grenache 2014 ($30). This venerable producer makes incredible syrah/grenache blends, but it also makes a separate grenache that is medium bodied but with delicate raspberry, cranberry and cherry notes. A little syrah is blended here.
- Torres Sangre de Toro 2015 ($10). A lot of cherry, cola and ripe plum flavors with a dash of licorice. What a deal!
- Las Rocas 2015 ($10). A favorite of our’s year after year, this old-vine garnacha is from the fabulous Eric Solomon portfolio. Cherry and cranberry flavors with a hint of anise.
Bodegas Breca 2015 ($16). A selection from the Spanish portfolio of Jorge Ordonez, Breca has black cherry, red currant and cassis flavors. Surprisingly full bodied.
- Yalumba Barossa Bush Vine Grenache 2018 ($21). We liked the rich texture of this smooth grenache that exhibits plum and black cherry fruit flavor.
- Beckmen Purisima Mountain Vineyard Grenache 2014 ($50). One of the most sturdy, full-bodied grenaches from California, this monster has lots of red berry flavors, deep color and serious tannins.
- Alain Jaume Grande Garrigue Vacqueyras 2014 ($25). Blackberry and plum flavor dominate this dense, delicious grenache from a region in the Rhone Valley known for making the “poor man’s Chateauneuf du Pape.” Ripe dark fruit character with a hint of licorice.
Chateau de Nalys Blanc Grand Vin 2017 ($105). This is an extraordinary wine from one of the oldest properties in Chateauneuf du Pape. Owned by the venerable E. Guigal, this estate is comprised of three vineyards, each of which brings something special to a blend of grenache (59 percent), syrah, mourvedre, counoise and vacarese. Great structure, pure fruit character with lots of raspberry and blackberry flavors and hints of spice and pepper.
- Guigal Gigondas 2014 ($35). Sweet blackberry and plum flavors with a dash of spice and a generously long finish. Delicious as always.
- Hickinbotham The Elder Grenache 2016 ($75). Delicious and full-bodied, this Australian gem is loaded with ripe dark fruit and spice. Great, hedonistic texture.
- D’Arenberg The Custodian Grenache 2016 ($18). This excellent Australian producer has a homerun with this grenache year after year. Ripe, forward red berry flavors with a dash of vanilla and chocolate.
La Miranda Secastilla Garnacha Blanca 2013 ($17). Grenache blanc is technically a different grape variety, but we include it here because it’s a white wine that is equally underrated. We loved the citrus and spice notes in this wine from Spain’s Somotano rregon.
- Bodegas Vinas del Vero Secastilla Garnacha 2010 ($30). Made from grapes grown on old, old vines, this complex and delicious garnacha is from the Somontano region of Spain. Abundant aromas of cherries and tobacco are followed by forward, red currant and raspberry flavors with hints of vanilla and chocolate. The additional bottle age makes this a serious wine that can be enjoyed now. Fabulous.
- Bodegas Nekeas El Chaparral Old Vine Garnacha 2016 ($14). This well-priced garnacha from the Navarra region of Spain shows off fresh red fruit flavors with elegance and hints of pepper, coffee and mineral. It is from the reliable Jorge Ordonez Selections.
Bodega Inurrieta Mimao 2016 ($18). Another wine from the Navarra region, the Mimao is a distinguished garnacha with broad strawberry and raspberry flavors with hints of vanilla and pepper. Fifteen percent of the wine is cabernet sauvignon.
- Ventisquero Grey Glacier 2017 ($20) We throw in this garnacha blend from Chile because it demonstrates that the U.S. and Europe don’t have a lock on grenache. The indigenous carinena and mataro (also known as mourvedre) grapes offer this mostly garnacha wine a unique profile. Raspberry and cassis aromas are followed by cherry flavors and significant acidity.
- Leo Stein Wines Provisor Vineyard Dry Creek Valley Grenache 2018 ($36). Generous aromas of cherry and plum with juicy cherry and strawberry flavors, a dash of black pepper and licorice. Round tannins give this more body than many grenache wines from California.
Hahn Family SLH Pinot Noir 2017 ($30). Sourcing its grapes from four vineyards, this well priced pinot noir has strawberry and cherry notes with a forest floor and pepper finish.
- Four Virtues Monterey Pinot Noir 2017 ($25). A decent value in the crowded and expensive pinot noir category, this delicious wine exudes aromas of dried rosemary and plums followed by black cherry and strawberry flavors.
- Fortress Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 ($20). This blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and malbec is medium-bodied and simple but ripe in dark fruit with notes of blueberry, blackberry and vanilla.