There’s no Grenache in my cellar


banyuls.jpgA gentle second reminder from our leader Andrew, and an embarassing realisation that I was one of the few regular contributors not to have written something for Great Grape Day, sent me scurrying off to my cellar (ie: the garage) to seek out some Grenache to taste. Of the 150 or so wines, I found precisely 2 that had Grenache in them as part of a blend. That set me thinking why that might be and I started analysing what made me buy certain wines but then it dawned on me - the best wine I have had in the last month or so was a Grenache.

It was a Vin Doux Naturels, a 2004 Banyuls by Chapoutier one of the Rhone’s best producers. I bought it as part of my tasting practice for my WSET Diploma from my favourite local wine shop here in Tunbridge Wells, Kent. I had practised long and hard for my recent exam on fortified wine on port, madeira and sherry and had ignored some of the other fortified wines. I knew that a Commandaria or a Mavrodaphne were unlikely to feature in the blind tasting of three wines but I hadn’t really studied the VdN of France so I was sure Murphy’s Law would prevail - if I knew little about the subject it would definitely come up in the exam.

The VdN in France are either Musact or Grenache based, the Grenache based ones coming from the Rhone or Languedoc-Roussillon. The Rhone is a Rasteau and there are 2 principal ones from the Languedoc, Rivesaltes or Banyuls, the latter being as far south geographically as you can possibly go in France. This Banyuls will have been fortified during fermentation to leave some residual sugar and must have, according to AC laws, at least 50 % Grenache in it. I read that it is the only French wine region able to offer 20 to 30 year old wines as a large proportion of its total production.

How did it taste? Like alcoholic blackcurrant juice with just the right amount of acidity. Absolutely wonderful. Coincidentally it was my birthday and Father’s Day not long after my exam and Janet made me a wonderful chocolate cake. I had read how good a match Banyuls is to a chocolate cake and I can agree that it certainly is!

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Reader Comments

The one comment that struck me was you mentioned it was fortified. I find that interesting, as I think it may be a good after dinner wine if it has a touch of sweetness to it.
Pairing it with chocolate cake, now that really sounds yummy!