Predicting the next big thing in wine trends: grenache

As is the case with fashion, food and television shows, tastes in wine change, too.

I’m betting that the next “it” wine will be grenache.

With well-balanced red fruit flavors and a range of intensity from mediumbodied to powerhouse, grenache plays a role in many blends. It’s predominant in the Rhone district of France and factors largely in many Australian and California blends. Worldwide, it is the fourth most widely planted red grape variety.

No matter what anyone tells you, size matters when it comes to wines. Size, that is, as it pertains to production. There have to be enough grapes to produce the amount of wine it takes to satisfy demand.and. That’s one reason vouvray from France and gruner veltlinerr from Ausstrike Austria will never strike it big: Neither districtt has enough vineyard productionction to susush sustain a major push into the marketplace.

Price also matters.atters. When it comes to reallyly big sellers, the $10 price pointoint appears to be the magicalical number. According to the Nielsen Company, sales last year in the $9-$12 categorygory totaled nearly $2 billion,lion, more than 20 percentnt of nons. nonrestaurant sales.

Think about the stars of yesteryear — such as white zinfandeldel and shiraz — whichh were available in mass quantities at low prices.

The biggestgest varietal sellersers in the Uniteded States continueue to be chardonnay, net cabernet sauvignon, merlot rt and pinot grigio, Nielsenn reports in thiss month’s editionn

-. of Wine Business Monthly. Pinot noirr and sauvignonn blanc are closee behind andd o continue to

, grow in sales, but aren’t likelyy to be the nextt rage. Sauvignonn blanc can bee herbaceous andd citrusy, and notot necessarily foodd friendly. Pinotot noir generallyly sells well aboveove the magical $10 price point.

Chapoutier Belleruche Cotes-du-Rhone. Chapoutier Belleruche Cotes-du-Rhone. Other worthy wines might not make the final grade as well.

Malbec has a certain rusticity, with powerful tannins and lip-staining color. The Nielsen Company does not track malbec sales in stores, but total iimports from Argentina are on the rise. ctt California winemakers thought syrah could be the next big wine, after seeing the voluminous imports from Australia take a grip ka strong on the marketplace. But, although fruity and food friendly, the wine never took off here.

So let’s get back to grenache.

In June 2010, the first international Grenache Symposium took place in France. As reported in the August 2010 edition of Wine Business Monthly, wine expert and editor of Decanter Magazine Stephen Spurrier called grenache “the unsung hero of the wine world,” noting there is no more versatile or dependable grape variety.

The Grenache Symposium website, www.grenachesymposium.com, quotes noted wine authority Jancis Robinson as saying, “It is high time thathat grenache/garnacha cha enjoy somsome time wallowing in the spotlightspotligh of international attention.”

In the Wine Spectator March 31, 2010, editedition, James Laube wrote: “GrenacheGrena is a grape that seemingly has it all. It can make amazingly complex,com detailed and age worthy wiwines — witness the great wines from Châteauneuf-du-Pape or Priorat (in Spain, the grape goes by the name Garnacha). It also excels in value wines, notably in blends from the Côtes du Rhône.”

Today’s wine drinkers continue to look for value, and I believe grenache can be a winner, because there are already a number of inexpensive grenache based wines available. In California, few winemakers sell it as a varietal, but the emerging trend of Rhonestyle wines has sparked renewed interest in the grape there.

Look to Spain to be a big player in the growth of grenache, with the second largest acreage in the world planted with garnacha. Quality, availability and a declining euro all will add to the popularity of Spanish wines.

This week’s wine picks are all grenache-based.

Weekly wine picks:

¦ Alto Moncayo Veraton 2008 ($28): Fresh black cherry and blackberry aromas and flavors, round in the mouth with a nicely balanced finish with a touch of spice.

¦ Bodegas Borsao Tres Picos 2009 ($18): Big black cherry, blackberry and flower aromas, following through to the palate with nicely structured red fruit and plum flavors. The finish is long and smooth, with a touch of mineral and spice.

¦ Chapoutier Cotes du Rhone Belleruche 2009 ($12): Deep rich purple color, with spicy aromas and juicy fruit flavors of black cherry and spice, ending with a light mineral finish.

¦ Tablas Creek Cotes de Tablas 2009 ($30): From Paso Robles, Calif., this wine has lush red fruit aromas and flavors of black cherry and plum, with a long lingering finish of cherry and spice. ¦

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