The leading lights of the wine world were gathered together at the lovely hamlet of Le Crestet in early June for a symposium to discuss the future of Grenache. The grape is the world’s fourth most planted grape varietal, but is barely known to consumers, especially in new wine markets like India, writes Reva K. Singh. Organised by Nicole Folet of Domaine de la Verrière and Walter McKinlay of Domaine de Mourchon, the Grenache Symposium was led by international wine experts, Steven Spurrier and Michel Bettane.
As the world’s first international symposium on the Grenache grape, the G-20 style summit was a historic event with 270 representatives from 22 countries present.
We were divided according to experience and background into different panels covering topics such as viticulture and winemaking, the chameleon-like nature and versatility of Grenache, its quality as a food wine, the potential of Grenache on a global level, and the changing consumption patterns in established and new wine markets.
The numerous workshops, presentations and tastings followed on each other smoothly. Nearly 300 cuvées and over 1600 bottles of Grenache wines were sampled from around the world showcasing the grape’s diversity and ability to reflect its terroir. The atmosphere was thick with talk as ideas flew back and forth at the presentations and during the tastings. On the day of the Grande Degustation 1000 bottles were opened and the planned two-hour tasting came to a close after four hours. Nobody wanted to leave the tasting for dinner!
Grenache is not entirely unknown in India. It was first planted at Nashik near Mumbai by Yatin and Kiran Patil of Vintage Wines in 2000, but they experienced viticultural difficulties and abandoned the project. Meanwhile, Nashik Vintners planted 15 acres with Grenache vines in 2005 using clones, 70 and 136, imported from South Africa. The first vintage was released in November 2009 under the brand name Mosaic rather than Sula, as a mid-level wine selling for Rs 350.
“Our vineyards are quite young and we are not completely satisfied with the quality,” said Ajoy Shaw, Chief Winemaker at Nashik Vintners. “Right now the wine does not merit its place in our regular premium wines. This is the reason why we have put it in our second level of wines, Mosaic.”
However India is also importing Grenache based wines, which is all to the good because I believe Grenache, with its softer tannins, attractive aroma and spicy, fruity flavours is eminently suited to the Indian palate, both as an aperitif and paired with Indian food. With greater awareness, the wines should do well in India. I wouldn’t be surprised if in the not too distant future people become so familar with the varietal that they ask for it by name. “I’d like a glass of Grenache, please!”
If the success of the Grenache Symposium and the excitement generated among wine professionals and journalists is anything to go by, the reputation of Grenache or Garnacha, as it is known in Spain, is bound to grow. The enthusiasm at the summit was palpable.
The Grenache Symposium transcended rivalries, languages and borders and created a genuine sense of unity amongst all the participants, noted Nicole Rolet, whose wine estate, La Verrière, was the venue of the summit.
“The focus was on a call-to-action, to elevate the grape’s future from the good to the great, by bringing a better understanding and appreciation of Grenache from the vine to the bottle,” she said.
All in all, the Grenache Symposium was an educational and most enjoyable experience from which I came away with my head buzzing and, in the excitement of the moment, even wondered – implausibly – if I should dedicate an entire issue of Sommelier India Wine magazine to the Grenache grape!
The conclusions drawn from the discussions will be posted on the Grenache Symposium website (www.grenachesymposium.com) and published in a Global Guide to Great Grenache.