Grenache Comes Into Its Own in Oklahoma

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Grenache Comes Into Its Own in Oklahoma

By Greg Horton

In spite of being one of the most widely planted red grapes in the world, Grenache is just now coming into its own in Oklahoma as a varietal people seek out. Fans of French wines have been drinking Grenache in wines from the Southern Rhone Valley for centuries, and its reputation in Spain, where it is known as Garnacha, has been built on incredibly affordable wines with great taste and character.

France and Spain have the longest history with Grenache, so the consistency of their wines is hard to beat. Some of the French wines are legitimate icons, Chateauneuf-du-Pape being chief among them. Also in the southern Rhone Valley is Domaine Gramenon, home of legendary winemaker Michele Aubery-Laurent.

Gramenon produces eight variations of single-varietal Grenache, as well as some blends. As an introduction to French Grenache, it would be hard to surpass Domaine Gramenon Les Laurentides, a Grenache made from 50-year-old vines. The limestone in Gramenon soil adds a strong backbone of minerality to Aubery-Laurent’s wines, and like all Grenache, dark fruit and spices are prominent.

Yet another female winemaker, Marine Roussel, produces the outstanding L’O de Joncier from Domaine du Joncier. This single-varietal Grenache is made from younger vines than the Gramenon, and the soils are alluvial instead of limestone, so there is much more fruit and much less minerality. The L’O still has great structure and balance, though, and at about $20, it is an easy choice to start experimenting.

Whereas the French wines tend toward the pricey side, the Spanish Garnacha tends to run under $20, and often under $15. Jorge Ordonez is one of the best importers of Spanish wines in the world, and several wines from his portfolio are available in the state. The Borsao Tres Picos Garnacha is one of the best value wines available anywhere, and as such, it is a great place to start trying Spanish wines. Expect plenty of red and black fruit, pepper and spices from the Spanish stuff. It lacks the elegance of the French wines, but it is far more approachable as a rule.

California has had the most success with Grenache in the U.S. The longer growing season helps the slow-ripening grapes achieve the proper balance of acid, fruit, and sugar. California has its share of world-renowned winemakers, and Tuck Beckstoffer certainly qualifies. His Melee Grenache is an homage to the wines he loved from France, and in a rare moment of serendipity, he actually found a vineyard with limestone in the soil. The Melee is big and dense, and it is packed with fruit.

Finally, Stolpman Vineyards from Santa Rita Hills in California is brand new in Oklahoma. The winery produces several Rhone-style wines, and their Grenache is fermented in concrete tanks, so oak doesn’t get in the way of the pure expression of Grenache. Tons of white pepper combines with candied red fruit to make a lighter but still structured version of Grenache.

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