Atlanta Restaurant Scene

Kulers Uncorked: The Grenache That Stole Christmas

(With serious apologies to Theodor Geisel)

Every somebody in the wine biz liked grenache a lot,

But a lot of regular folks in America did not.

It wasn’t because they couldn’t find it in their local wine shop.

For some it was simply a matter of pronouncing Châteauneuf-du-Pape!

You see, Châteauneuf (that’s what the hipsters call it)

Is grenache’s ancient home, but not’s all, not even a bit.

Grenache is grown in many non-French places, too,

Where they call it garnacha, uva di spagna and even cannonaddu.

In these far-away lands, they drink grenache with gusto.

So, here are some numbers, for those who must know:

Italy has 50,000 acres.

Spain has thrice more.

France has a quarter million.

But aren’t statistics a bore?

“What’s in this wine-soaked Christmas poem for me?” You might ask.

That’s what I’m trying to get at. This is my Yuletide task.

Grenache is getting popular. So much more popular than before.

We’re drinking ever so much more than we did in 2004.

Back then, as now, cabernet was the thing.

It was the same tired song all red wine drinkers sing:

“I’ll drink any wine as long as it’s red.

But don’t make it zin. I’d rather be dead.

Don’t bring me pinot. That’s rather too light.

Merlot?Merlot! Let’s not start a fight.

Cabernet, ah, that’s the right wine for me.

Bring me a bottle. No, make it three!”

While the cabernet sea still brims to this day.

Other reds are making their way down ol’ Broadway.

It started with the advent of pinot noir,

Which is much lighter than cabernet by far.

Today, wine drinkers are seeking a middle ground.

Grenache is the wine that many have found.

It’s neither too big nor is it too small.

It has the finesse of a pinot, but that’s not all.

When it comes from the Rhône Valley located in France,

There’s an earthy flavor that makes Bordeaux lovers dance.

When it comes from Spain, where they call it garnacha,

Its dried cherry quality make critics croon like Sinatra.

“Don’t they make any here,” you might say.

“Don’t they make any grenache in the U.S. of A.?”

That’s a complicated question. But, of course, they do.

It comes from California, but that part you knew.

Way, way, way back in the day,

guys like Randall Grahm tried to show us the way.

His group called the Rhone Rangers grew grenache and syrah,

But despite their great efforts they didn’t get very far.

Cabernet was too powerful, as I’ve already said.

By the mid-‘90s the Rangers were dead.

Is Randall still alive? Well, very much so.

Is he making cabernet? The answer is, NO!

He still makes Rhône-style wines under the name Bonny Doon,

And he’s been joined by others and not a moment too soon.

Vintners like Doug Margerum and Curt Schalchlin at Sans Liege

Make grenache wines to which oenophiles say: “More, please!”

These two and others (176 by my count) herald a Ranger revival.

And that can only mean it’s time for grenache’s red-carpet arrival.

So on the eve of the eve of St. Stephen’s Feast,

Perhaps as you carve your succulent roast beast,

You’ll raise a glass, a cup or some drinking device

And find in it grenache, your new wine of paradise.

Gil Kulers is a sommelier and maitre d’ for an Atlanta country club. You can reach him at

2012 Sans Liege, The Offering, Santa Barbara County, California

Note: Wines are rated on a scale ranging up from Thumbs Down, One Thumb Mostly Up, One Thumb Up, Two Thumbs Up, Two Thumbs Way Up and Golden Thumb Award. Prices are suggested retail prices as provided by the winery, one of its agents, a local distributor or retailer.

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The Food & Dining Team offers reviews, previews, food news and fun bites food trends for metro Atlanta’s vast food and dining scene.

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