BERGER: Don't dismiss Grenache

A strong case could be made that cabernet sauvignon is the world's greatest red wine grape.

It makes, arguably, France's most famous and usually most expensive red wines (Bordeaux); it is king in Napa Valley, and has been successfully grown around the world from New York to South Africa.

Fans of Burgundy would beg to differ, of course. Its grapes, like pinot noir, makes the most sublime, fascinating, and dramatic red wine — when it's great (which isn't often), they'd argue. Even though it's hard to make a great Pinot noir, many try to emulate great red Burgundy, including winemakers in Australia and New Zealand, California, and even Italy.

Two other nominees for greatest red grape come from Italy. Sangiovese-ites love Brunello, Chianti, and other wines from that grape; Nebbiolo-ists favor the greatness of that grape's star performer, Barolo.

And Australians and those from the Rh?e Valley would chime in with their nominee, syrah/shiraz, which makes the great wines of Hermitage and Aussie reds of power and longevity, like Grange.

Chances are that far down the ballot would be grenache, a less-well-known grape, but one with a precocious personality, the ability to make friends with all the above varieties, and an approachability that is hard to imagine.

Grenache, a prolific producer, is one of the world's most widely planted grapes, best known as a primary grape for the southern Rh?e Valley, where often it is the lead horse in the blended red wine Chateauneuf-du-Pape.

It also contributes to the best C?es-du-Rh?e and Gigondas wines, and is used as a superb blending grape in California for the so-called Rh?e blends.

It is also widely grown in Spain where, as Garnacha, it's a superb addition to many blends, and more recently has shown up as a varietal wine.

On its own, it can make a splendid ros? it can display a dramatic pink color and its fruit qualities are like maraschino cherries, ripe watermelon, and raspberry juice.

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