Grenache and Food in the Old and New Worlds

Grenache based wines are food friendly and pair well with a wide variety of cuisines. When done well, single varietal Grenache offers a rich core of fruit with good acidity and balance and just the right amount of tannins to match well with many different dishes without overpowering them. When blended with other grapes, such as Syrah (Shiraz) and Mourvèdre (Mataro), the Grenache blend takes on a floral fruity character with the depth of flavor, peppery spice and earthy character that enables it to be paired well with a wide range of foods and preparations. As we discovered in doing the research for our Report #39 The Best of Grenache, Grenache-based wines are among the most versatile wines for pairing with food. Following are some fine examples of the many ways Grenache is paired with food in France, Spain, Australia, California and Washington State.

StewFrance. In the Rhone and elsewhere in France, the French generally pair Châteaneuf-du-Pape, Gigondas, and other Grenache-based wines with beef, lamb, rabbit and game birds. The preferred preparations are grilling and braising, the latter consisting of rich aromatic stews (daubes and civets) slowly cooked with fresh vegetables; casseroles of potato gratin layered with wild mushrooms; and roasted root vegetables in olive oil with basil, herbes de Provence, and wine. Grenache-based wines also pair well with Mediterranean dishes, while the absence of new oak in the wines means they can be enjoyed with lighter dishes such as fish and veal.

Grenache is also paired with chicken and black olives or squabs rubbed with anise or garlic, wrapped in bacon and in a myriad of other preparations. In its fruit forward and aromatic guise, Grenache is paired with highly aromatic and seasoned dishes containing garlic, herbes de Provence, rosemary, thyme, etc. and Mediterranean dishes that contain sweet duck, venison, peppers, eggplant, and olives. In fact, the French term for the local Mediterranean wild herbs, ‘garrigue’, is often used by experienced tasters to describe the flavor nuances of Grenache

ChorizoSpain. The Spanish pair Garnacha-based wines with a wide variety of foods ranging from simple tapas to more elaborate dishes. Simple, single varietal rosés (rosados) and other fruity Garnachas are very popular throughout Spain and are often the preferred wine for pairing with an endless variety of tapas, chorizos, garlic-infused pollo al ajillo, tortilla de patatas, grilled sardines etc. A light peppered style Grenache can be a wonderful accompaniment to gazpacho. For somewhat more complex chicken, fish and pork dishes, oxtail and other stews, and paella, more complex and earthy Garnachas or Garnacha blends, like Priorats, are a favorite choice.

Australia. Australians enjoy Grenache with a wide range of seasonal produce and classical cuisines. Rabbit and pork sausage or slow roasted pork, red roast duck with plum and other fruit glazes or duck confit with cherries, boned quail with wild mushrooms, grain fed chicken, pan fried veal chops, and mushroom pie are just some examples. We should not forget the Aussies’ love of a good barbecue, of course, where the sweet/spicy marinades are just perfect for the flavors Grenache brings to the table. Fresh fish such as snapper and marlin prepared with fresh herbs and berries are a favorite accompaniment as is smoked fish. The rich and flavorful old vines Grenaches and some GSMs (Grenache-Shiraz-Mourvèdre) pair beautifully with game meats served with a raspberry or sour cherry sauce or glaze.

SalmonCalifornia and Washington. Grenache in its various guises pairs beautifully with California and Washington State cuisine. It is regularly served with roasts of veal and lighter meats and poultry accompanied by various fruit sauces. It is also often paired with roasted salmon, ahi tuna, and other fish dishes that are served with caramelized onions and other vegetables, as well as lentils, eggplants, mushrooms, herbs and root vegetables. Asian style grilled squab and other grilled dishes with Asian spice aromas and marinades play well with Grenache. These might include Thai-style grilled lamb with raspberry-Mango relish, pork tenderloin with pomegranate sauce and countless other dishes provided they are not too heavily spiced.

Mike Potashnik and Don Winkler

September 2013