(Illustration: Jack Dylan)
Backyard sommeliers bored with the usual summer reds (merlot, shiraz, zinfandel) should try fruity garnacha. It is more commonly known by its French name, grenache, but it originated in Spain and thrives in the hot, arid Mediterranean. Despite once being the world’s most widely planted red grape, it was usually considered unfit for fine wine on its own. Its tannin and acidity are low and its alcohol quite high, so it’s most often blended with syrah, mourvèdre and carignan, or torn out of the ground altogether to make way for merlot and cabernet vines. In recent years, however, such leading winemakers as Alvaro Palacios, Hugh Ryman and Norrel Robertson are reviving derelict garnacha vineyards in Spain. The old, gnarled, low-yielding vines make richly fruity, even creamy reds that are dense enough to match red meat textures, smooth enough to drink without aging, and ripe and peppery enough to handle any barbecue sauce yet invented. If you crave something light, garnacha is the base for dry Spanish and French rosés, and there is even a handful of whites made with garnacha blanca. It’s also affordable, so you can mix a case of different styles to keep your deck and dock guests happy all summer long.
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