The next big thing in wine is… who knows. We’ve all tried to make the big call and almost no-one gets it right.
The problem is that it often takes a big call to cut through the noise, so when I walk you through a white grape variety that you probably haven’t heard of here without any superlatives, it will be easy to gloss over it and move on without giving it much consideration. But every bottle of wine doesn’t have to change your life, merely being delicious and providing just that little bit of novelty is all it really needs to do to set it above the pack. Let’s be honest – the 75th Chardonnay probably won’t deliver on both of those metrics, but the first Fiano, the first Soave, the first Grenache Blanc may do.
Grenache Blanc will and won’t be familiar to you. The Grenache part will but the Blanc? No, it’s not Grenache as you know it made into a white wine; it is a mutation of Grenache into a white grape variety, very similarly to Pinot which is found as Noir, Blanc and Gris as well. Grenache Blanc, like its red sibling, thrives in warm regions such as the Southern Rhone of France, parts of Spain and is slowly building a case in the Australian regions of McLaren Vale and Heathcote. It retains acidity for a given level of ripeness a little better than some other Rhone varieties such as Viognier or Marsanne but still produces wines of medium or full body. Its other great selling point is that it can handle higher yields quite well which makes it more economical to produce as an ‘entry-level’ or ‘every day’ drinking wine without losing too much character.
The challenge of producing wine at lower price points is producing enough fruit per vine to make it cost-effective but without going so far as to dilute flavour and character too much in the final wine. Grenache Blanc seems to do this pretty well. It’s unlikely to produce the most complex, age-worthy wines you ever try but for that simple glass of wine with dinner it just needs to have balance and be delicious. Grenache Blanc can do this well and steps in to offer an option amongst a relatively thin part of the market.
If you like light bodied, crisp whites, you have plenty of options to choose from. But if you like whites with body and richer texture, your options are limited, and if you don’t like Chardonnay then your options can become very thin indeed. That is slowly changing, but it does require a step off the track of “household” grape variety names.
Grenache Wizardry Grenache Blanc 2019 – $18
Hand-picked, fermented in relatively neutral amphora, left on lees for a few months to add more layers of texture is just enough work to bring out some character in the wine but not so much as to lose freshness and approachability. It’s not a particularly fruity wine – citrus and green apple jump out but it’s mainly the weight and texture that shine. Medium-bodied with subtle layers of texture – creamy, oily, minerally, none of which are overplayed as the freshness that runs through the wine never lets these elements become too fat then a nice briny edge to tighten up through the finish.