Versatile grenache blanc ideal for blending 

Grenache is the most widely planted red-wine grape in the world. Grenache blanc is not nearly as popular but it seems to be catching on. Here’s the scoop.

A mutation of grenache, grenache blanc is originally from Spain but, like its red counterpart, has become more identified with southern France. Full-bodied, high in alcohol and low in acid, it thrives in warm climates such as southern Rhone, Languedoc-Roussillon, parts of California and South Australia.

Grenache blanc expresses nut-like, banana and citrus flavors. Often blended with Roussanne, Marsanne and other southern Rhone white varieties, it adds weight and flavor. its weight and texture make it a good white wine to have with any meat or with certain types of fish and mushroom dishes.

While there are not too many sections of wine shops dedicated to grenache blanc, they are now easier to come by. Here are three to seek out.

Epiphany grenache blanc, Camp Four Vineyard, 2007 (Santa Ynez Valley): Epiphany is Eli Parker’s new project. Parker, who trained under Jed Steele, uses small lots of wine to create his “Epiphanies.” Full-bodied, brimming over with grapefruit and peaches, this at the least is a revelation of grenache’s future in California. Suggested retail: $25

Chateau des Tours, Cotes-du-Rhone Blanc, 2005 (Rhone Valley, France): Chateau des Tours is owned and run by Emmanuel Reynaud, who is part of the famous Reynaud family that also owns Chateau Rayas in Chateauneuf-du-Pape and Chateau Fonsalette Cotes-du-Rhone. Though best known for its Vacqueras, Chateau des Tours makes fabulous wines across the board and this Cotes-du-Rhone blanc, composed entirely of grenache blanc, is a standout. Full-bodied with banana flambé, crème brulee, creamy banana and nut oil flavors, this wine shows that the southern Rhone is not just about red wine. Suggested retail: $27

Coume del Mas, Folio, 2004 (Languedoc-Roussillon, France): A trained agricultural engineer, Phillipe Gard worked in both Bordeaux and Burgundy. Why he went to the Roussillon to make wines from grenache and other southern French grapes is anyone’s guess — but one taste of this wine and it is obvious he knows what he is doing. Minerally, with generous banana and plantain flavors and an underpinning of nuts, this is a great crossover wine for chardonnay drinkers. Suggested retail: $30

Pamela S. Busch is the wine director and proprietor of CAV Wine Bar & Kitchen in San Francisco.

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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