It is my strong belief that one of the most overlooked white wines coming from Spain and France are those crafted from Garnacha Blanca.
Grenache Blanc (Garnacha Blanca), a variation of Grenache Noir, was born in Spain and travelled to France where it’s a support partner for different Mediterranean white grape varieties. With 21 thousand acres of vines, it’s the fourth most widely planted white variety in France, with extensive plantings in Roussillon. It’s used almost exclusively as a blending grape in France.
All wine lovers are familiar with red Grenache but how many of you have you heard of Grenache Blanc?
Grenache Blanc, with its light skin adds components of green apple, herb and minerality, with a panoply of floral nuances and refreshing acidity. The grape finds its home in the hot and dry territory of Rousillon and Aragon ( Spain).speicifically in the Terra Alta region in Catalonia, where it has adapted very well to the limestone terrain with sandy topsoil.
During my trip to Spain/France, I tasted a great number of Grenache blancs.If you’re into Roussanne, Marsanne, or Viognier, you’ll love Grenache Blanc. And if Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc sit a bit too far to the ends of the white wine spectrum for you, you’ll love the “go-between” style of the grape.
I particularly enjoyed the wines of Domaine Lafage. Jean-Marc and Eliane Lafage exploits 160 hectares of vines located just south of the capital of French Catalonia, Perpignan. Some of their vineyards are located not far away from the Mediterranean, while others can be found in the foothills of the Pyrenees.
They grow primarily Grenache (Blanc, Gris & Noir), Syrah, Mourvedre, Carignan, Marsanne, Roussanne and Chardonnay with a significant proportion of the vines well over 50 years old.
Their Cuvée Centenaire 2018 tasted at the domain (Côtes du Roussillon) is a beautiful ode to the whites of Rousillon. On the mouth, it is quite elegant with a touch of saltiness that brings to mind the sea. It has an incredible freshness with light touches of acacia and mineral dust. The 2017 retails at the SAQ ( 13227845) for $18.50. Cuvée Centenaire takes its name from the 100 year-old vines of Grenache Blanc and Gris Jean-Marc Lafage farms just a few kilometers from the Mediterranean on gravelly clay soils. One of the greatest white wine values in the SAQ from the Roussillon at the moment.
Domaine Lafage harvests by hand and the winemaking is surprisingly simple: stainless steel for the fresher whites, but mostly concrete tanks for the rest with a small amount of French oak demi-muids.
Argentinian wines for the fall
I recently was invited for a trade tasting of a small selection of Argentinian wines by the organism Wines of Argentina available at the SAQ. I have to admit that I seldom drink wines from Argentina these days so I was pleasantly surprised on how high the quality level was.
Argentina is the 5th largest producer of wine in the world, producing a whopping amount of 15 million hectolitres (1.5 billion litres). Close to a quarter of this is exported, with the other 75% mostly consumed by the traditionally thirsty local population.
Most of the wines being made are still Malbec dominated , accounting for around 33% of all red wine produced in the country and 18% of total plantings. However, there are still other interesting wines from varieties that include Pedro Ximenez, Cereza, Criolla Grande and Moscatel Rosado.
Favourite picks of the tasting:
Nieto Senetiner Sémillon 2017
SAQ # 13653001 $16.50
Aromas of vanilla bean, beeswax with a hint of white pepper. Racy with a very savoury character. The oak aging adds a lot of complexity on the palate. Smoky finale with a beautiful acidity.
Humberto Canale Estate Pinot Noir Patagonia 2018 SAQ # 13684211 $15.95
Aromas of rhubarb, leafy raspberry with a pretty hint of licorice and red plums. Well balanced with velvety tannins and a medium acidity.
D.V. Catena Tinto Historico Mendoza 2017
SAQ # 13958365 $19.95
A multiblend of Malbec, Bonarda and Petit Verdot. Rich and heady aromas of ripe blackfruit. Creamy on the palate with wonderful nuances of violets, roses and licorice and plush tannins. Long finale.