David Lawrason offers nine reasons why garnacha makes for great barbecue wine

David Lawrason offers nine reasons why garnacha makes for great barbecue wine

(Illustration: Jack Dylan)

Backyard sommeliers bored with the usual summer reds (merlot, shiraz, zinfandel) should try fruity garnacha. It is more commonly known by its French name, grenache, but it originated in Spain and thrives in the hot, arid Mediterranean. Despite once being the world’s most widely planted red grape, it was usually considered unfit for fine wine on its own. Its tannin and acidity are low and its alcohol quite high, so it’s most often blended with syrah, mourvèdre and carignan, or torn out of the ground altogether to make way for merlot and cabernet vines. In recent years, however, such leading winemakers as Alvaro Palacios, Hugh Ryman and Norrel Robertson are reviving derelict garnacha vineyards in Spain. The old, gnarled, low-yielding vines make richly fruity, even creamy reds that are dense enough to match red meat textures, smooth enough to drink without aging, and ripe and peppery enough to handle any barbecue sauce yet invented. If you crave something light, garnacha is the base for dry Spanish and French rosés, and there is even a handful of whites made with garnacha blanca. It’s also affordable, so you can mix a case of different styles to keep your deck and dock guests happy all summer long.

Alvaro Palacios 2008 Camins del Priorat
Alvaro Palacios 2008 Camins del Priorat
$22.95 | Priorat, Spain | 90 points
This classy, affordable blend of garnacha and cariñena crafted by Alvaro Palacios, Spain’s leading winemaker, is a complex, elegant compote of black raspberry with subtle wood spice, vanilla, leather and granitic minerality on the finish. Try it with pork tenderloin or chicken thighs. LCBO 216291
Bodega San Gregorio 2008 Manga del Brujo
Bodega San Gregorio 2008 Manga del Brujo
$15.95 | Calatayud, Spain | 89 points
Made by Scottish Master of Wine Norrel Robertson, this blend is 65 per cent garnacha with syrah, tempranillo, carignan and mourvèdre. It has lifted blueberry, plum, licorice and rosemary aromas. It’s medium- to full-bodied, with smoothness at first, then a tart redcurrant finish. Good with lamb. LCBO 15073
Castillo de Monséran 2010 Garnacha
Castillo de Monséran 2010 Garnacha
$8.95 | Cariñena, Spain | 87 points
Unoaked and unabashedly simple, this fruity wine offers huge value, with raspberry and blueberry pie flavours. It’s almost a wine smoothie, with some sweetness and soft tannin and nicely contained alcohol (only 12.5 per cent). Chill lightly and serve with burgers, ribs and wings. LCBO 73395
Chivite 2010 Gran Feudo Rosado
Chivite 2010 Gran Feudo Rosado
$11.95 | Navarra, Spain | 87 points
The northern province of Navarra is famous for its garnacha-blended rosés. This one has a bright nose of candied cherry and strawberry, with garnacha’s peppery nuances. It’s mid-weight and fresh, yet dry, with quenching bitter cran-cherry and grapefruit flavours on the finish. Serve chilled with antipasto and summer salads. LCBO 165845
D’Arenberg 2009 The Stump Jump Grenache Shiraz Mourvèdre
D’Arenberg 2009 The Stump Jump Grenache Shiraz Mourvèdre
$14.05 | South Australia | 89 points
This Aussie GSM (garnacha, syrah and mourvèdre) has a lifted nose of plum jam, pepper, menthol, lavender and tobacco. It’s lightweight and a touch sweet but has piquant, sour-edged flavours and soft tannin. Try it with duck or rare red meats. Chill lightly. LCBO 173294
Falset-Marça 2005 Ètim Old Vines Selección Grenache
Falset-Marça 2005 Ètim Old Vines Selección Grenache
$19.95 | Montsant, Spain | 88 points
A sturdy, mature bottle from an up-and-coming region neighbouring Priorat, south of Barcelona. It’s dark, rich and savoury, with pepper, cedar, mint and licorice. Good acidity and tannin means it stands up to grilled steak or lamb. Very good to excellent length. Vintages. LCBO 214304
Domaine Lafage 2009 Côté Est
Domaine Lafage 2009 Côté Est
$13.15 | Côtes Catalanes, France | 87 points
Hailing from the southeast of France, this bottle blends garnacha blanc for acid, chardonnay for fruit and marsanne for spice. Grapefruit and lavender scents sit atop ripe melon and pineapple. It has a creamy texture and a bitter lemon finish. Ideal with cold seafood. Serve well chilled. LCBO 179838
Las Rocas de San Alejandro 2009 Garnacha
Las Rocas de San Alejandro 2009 Garnacha
$14.95 | Calatayud, Spain | 88 points
Spanish winemaker Yolanda Diaz oversees the making of this 100 per cent garnacha from 70-year-old vines in Zaragoza. It’s packed with sweet raspberry-plum fruit and aromas of roses and pepper. It’s medium-weight, creamy, hot and a touch sweet. Serve chilled with burgers and chicken. LCBO 95190
Sella & Mosca 2007 Cannonau di Sardegna Riserva
Sella & Mosca 2007 Cannonau di Sardegna Riserva
$14.95 | Sardinia, Italy | 87 points
Garnacha is the most planted grape in Sardinia, where the Italians call it Cannonau. This pale and thin yet smooth edition differs from its Spanish cousins, with meaty, spicy, leathery notes wrapped around sweet strawberry-cherry fruit. Pairs perfectly with grilled Italian sausages. Vintages. LCBO 425488