Expert panelists including world winemakers, master sommeliers, lead buyers and media joined forces this week on Tuesday, April 24 for the Global Garnacha Summit. Sponsored by D.O.P. Cariñena, the birthplace of Garnacha in Spain, the first Global Garnacha Summit was held at The CIA at Copia in Napa.
The one-day exploration was shared with leading sommeliers, buyers, distributors, educators and journalists, encompassing dozens of regions and a full range of styles from around the globe. A full house attended two dynamic seminars and a walk-around tasting featuring close to 100 bottlings from over 50 points-of-origin. The organizers plan to release an industry white paper in the coming months, with results to be shared at www.globalgarnachasummit.com.
A Stunning Grape, Terroir-Friendly and an Alternative to Pinot Noir
The morning seminar – Garnacha Unveiled – was moderated by Bob Bath, MS and Professor of Wine and Beverage Studies, at The Culinary Institute of America. It featured a deep dive into the varietal characteristics of Garnacha/Grenache; how it performs in different regions and terroir around the globe; and how it’s interpreted by renowned producers worldwide. Key insights were shared by a dynamic global panel who spoke to their passion for the variety, as well as their drive to develop the distinctly “terroir-driven” personality of the variety.
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California panelists Randall Grahm of Bonny Doonrevealed his success with Garnacha in California’s long ripening season, following a “jilted relationship” with Pinot Noir, while winemaker Chelsea Franchi of Tablas Creek, a well-known producer in Paso Robles with additional ownership in the Rhône, declared it a “stunning grape to work with!” Boutique winemaker Angela Osborne likes Grenache so much that it’s the only variety she works with in California, traveling between vineyards some 700 miles apart to develop its potential in signature wines such as “A Tribute to Grace.”
Spanish Master of Wine Pedro Ballesteros stressed the “generosity” of the variety, a “global traveler” which shares commonality in different regions, but also takes on terroir with gusto, a perspective which was reinforced by tasting with winemakers Emmanuel Kemiji, MS of Clos Pissarra in Priorat and California, and Even Bakke from Clos de Trias in the southern Rhône.
Business Potential and Opportunities Take Centerstage
The afternoon panel – Garnacha Rising – was led by Peter Granoff, MS and Owner/Partner of Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant. The discussion delved into strategies for promoting Garnacha wines in addition to current consumption trends. Panelists engaged in a lively exchange with the attendees about strategies for making wine drinkers aware of quality and value-driven Garnacha as a comparable option to Pinot Noir and red blends. Panelists agreed that Garnacha ranks high among food-friendly wines and is a bridge for white wine drinkers looking for medium-bodied, expressive reds.
Buyer Stevie Stacionis of wine shop Bay Grape in Oakland, CA echoed a common refrain that Garnacha offers a wide spectrum and range, affording the trade many opportunities to find a consumer match from lighter to more full-bodied styles. The often-outstanding price points and food-friendly character of Garnacha from regions as distinct as
Cariñena, Paso Robles, Châteauneuf du Pape, and Barossa was also cited as a point of discovery for by-the-glass programs, where it was said to consistently “deliver what Pinot Noir promises.” Overall, there was a consensus that the business opportunity and consumer appeal of Garnacha/Grenache makes this a grape whose time has come, a view summarized by Gilian Handelman of Kendall Jackson Wineswith insights on plantings from Australia to California: “The elasticity of Garnacha is laudable! The key is to lay the groundwork for education now.”
The walk around food & wine pairing – Garnacha: The Perfect Partner – took place between sessions and featured dishes created exclusively for the event by the Chefs of COPIA, inspired by the signature flavors of Spain, France, and California. To highlight food-friendly character, attendees were able to pair and taste 100% Garnacha and blends from over 50 points-of-origin.
The summit concluded with a blind tasting, hosted by the SOMM Foundation. The cash prize awards were provided by Global Garnacha Summit media sponsor, The SOMM Journal. First place for $1,000 was given to Jay O’Leary of Jays-Wine-Stop, and second place for $500 went to Susan Meyer of St. Supéry Estate Vineyards & Winery.
Details on the next edition of the Global Garnacha Summit, as well as highlights from the inaugural event, will continue to be shared on www.globalgarnachasummit.com, so be sure to check back for the most recent information. Images can be downloaded here.
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