hen guests ask for Spanish wine at One Market in San Francisco, they usually mean Rioja or
Albariño, says Tonya Pitts, wine director. “They may not know that Spanish garnacha is the
same grape as French grenache. Yet they are open to pairing Spanish white garnacha with chef’s
grilled octopus atop ‘chorizo’ puree.”
Jeffrey Perisho, wine director at the Plumed Horse, Saratoga, California, listens to guests talk
about grenache as a blending grape of Rhone’s Châteauneuf du Pape. “I like the fruitiness and depth
of old vine garnacha, and recently listed one by the glass,” he says. “But I’ll sell a dozen bottles of
California pinot noir every weekend before selling much garnacha or grenache on its own.”
Often, says Dan Davis, wine director at Commander’s Palace, New Orleans, single varietal
garnacha and grenache appear at the bottom of the “Other Reds” wine list. But he advocates for and
sells Roussillon grenache vin doux naturel (fortified sweet wine), often missing on American wine lists.
The U.S. market for quality single varietal garnacha/grenache has grown in the last decade.
Provinces such as Aragon and Catalonia in Northeastern Spain and Roussillon in Southeastern
France possess ideal growing conditions for this sun-loving grape. Passionate winemakers create a
variety of garnacha/grenache wines, from white and red to rosé and sweet.
Garnacha/grenache is extensively grown in Spain and France with 97% deriving from the
Mediterranean countries. Surpassing popular tempranillo, garnacha is the most widely planted
grape in Spain. For the past two decades, many producers have focused on careful planting and
harvesting which results in higher-quality wines.
OPPOSITE: Mas Amiel winery vineyard.
ABOVE: Secastilla vineyard.
The five Roussillon AOPS for vins
doux naturels, fortified sweet wines,
have been well-known in the wine
world since the appellation was
defined in 1935: Rivesaltes, Maury,
Banyuls, Banyuls Grand Cru and
Muscat de Rivesaltes (white only).
The sweet wine AOPs range from
light-colored Ambré, Tuilé, Hors
d’Age to Rancio and Grenat (garnet).
High above the seaside village in
Collioure, Vincent Cantié launched
Domaine La Tour Vielle in the
1980s. Kermit Lynch of Berkeley,
California, has imported Cantié’s
wines for 30 years, partly because
of the winery’s mission of following
what nature gives their grapes rather
than following the market. His mix of
red, white, rosé and vin doux naturel
has garnered him a wide reputation.
Dan Davis, wine director at
Commander’s Palace in New
Orleans, has one of the largest lists
of vin doux naturels in the U.S.
He surprises guests by pairing a
Domaine La Tour Vieille vin doux
naturel with natural fruit flavors
and acidity with courses during the
chef’s tasting menu. Yet he also
appreciates the growing number of
dry wines from Roussillon, such as
La Tour Vieille La Pinède, which
he pairs with rustic dishes such as
La Coume du Roy in Maury is
another Davis go-to fortified sweet
wine. Agnes Bachelet, the 6th-
generation vintner, nurtures wine
in barrels that her father made and
also watches over barrels she has set
aside for her children.
Davis values the care and Maury
traditions that Bachelet follows
to produce well-balanced fortified
wines. “I like to use these wines in
place of more ‘common’ sweet wines
like Sauternes,” he says. He finds
that the red fruit and undertones
of nuttiness bring something
special to dishes such as chef Tory
McPhail’s foie gras du monde.
“The dish possesses savory notes
to balance the sweet elements, and
it’s gorgeous with the Domaine de la
Coume du Roy Maury.”
f o r vins doux naturels