When I see the grape variety “Grenache” on a wine label, I have certain expectations. Generally, I’m expecting the aromas and flavors of cherries, other red berry fruits, maybe a hint of earth. I’m expecting a red wine that could be anywhere from light-bodied to medium bodied, with a mild intensity and ample acidity that make it a great everyday wine for the dinner table. Unless it is a Gigondas, Vacqueyras, Cannonau, or Priorat, I’m expecting it to be under twenty bucks. Which leads me to another expectation: generally speaking, I’m expecting the wine to be from France (particularly from the Rhone, South West, or Languedoc), Spain (where it’s called “Garnacha”), or Italy (specifically from Sardinia, where it’s called “Cannonau”) — though, since Grenache is grown throughout the world it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if it came from a place other than those three countries.
So when I took a sip of this Grenache, I was a bit thrown off.
First, it’s from California. Not a big deal. Second, its flavor profile is not what I associate with Grenache; it’s closer to something in the genus Quercas. Third, it’s not necessarily a wine that I personally would consider as an “everyday” quaffer, partially because of its price ($25) but mainly because it is more of a “fireplace wine” than a “table wine”.
Just because the wine fell short of expectations, doesn’t mean it’s a bad wine — not by any means. But, after tasting it, I was forced to readjust my expecations.
This is a wine that Coca-Cola drinkers will find enjoyable, because it has a palate-whacking smack of sweet vanilla oak. On its own, it’s tasty and delicious — but because of that oaky quality, it makes it somewhat difficult to match with foods I usually have on my dinner table. Additionally, I don’t get any of the varietal character generally associated with pure Grenache.
The Quivira website describes the wine thusly:
Not to be confused with many of the monochromatic, strawberry-jam scented Grenaches flooding our shores of late, this wine shows all the savory and spice notes that make it a versatile match for everything from Szechwan peppercorn duck breast, to King salmon cooked on a cedar plank.
I agree 100% with that description. This wine definitely cannot be confused with the monochromatic, strawberry-jam Grenaches (or is it Pinot Noirs?) and it should be a good match with Szechwan peppercorn duck breast or salmon cooked on a cedar plank. I think it also would be nice with smoked cheeses, smoked meats, and similarly smokey, bolder-flavored foods. Though, I might confuse this wine with a monochromatic Zinfandel — minus the alcohol.
The alcohol is a key point — despite it being listed as 14.8% alcohol, this wine is not “hot” by any means, yet it delivers with ample flavor. There is a significant edge of acidity that coats the insides of your cheeks and will help with food matching. Tannins are mild. All around, it is a solid wine. My only complaint is the disconnect between the varietal printed on the label and the lack of varietal character. Tasted blind, it would be difficult for me to say “oh yes, this is Grenache”, because the most dominant aromas and flavors are from the barrel.
If you like an oaky, vanilla quality in your wine, then you will enjoy Quivira Grenache. If, on the other hand, you expect to taste typical Grenache, you may want to pass and instead pick up a Cote-du-Rhone, Priorat, or Cannonau di Sardegna.
Disclaimer: I received this wine for free as a sample.
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