Guest Explorer : Higgo Jacobs
A law graduate from Stellenbosch, Higgo was lured into the wine industry after his studies, and what was meant to be a sabbatical ended up as a way of life.
Certified with the Court of Master Sommeliers, Higgo consults to various establishments; judges on wine competitions and publications locally and abroad, and tries his hand occasionally at writing.
Known affectionately by some as the “poor man’s Pinot,” but clearly also revered more seriously by others, (as seen from the “King of Grapes” naming from one of our choice growers below) Grenache was once the most planted red grape variety in the world, with considerable contributions from Spain (where it is known as Garnacha) and the whole of the south of France until probably being surpassed by Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot over the past decade or two.
Grenache Noir came to the Cape in the 19th century but was only confirmed as such until the early 1900s by a Stellenbosch University professor. While there isn’t a lot of Grenache Noir planted in South Africa at only 305 hectares in 2014, many of the 100+ Grenache based blends are proving to be very fashionable with winemakers due to South Africa’s Mediterranean warm climate, dry land and granitic soils.
Whether intended for peasants or for kings, there is no doubt that Grenache is regaining popularity, especially among the trending wine lists and ‘hipster bars’ worldwide. The variety is better suited to warm and dry growing conditions than most and can deliver beautiful light red fruit perfume and juicy, easy drinking charm even from dry-land vineyards in warm regions.
There is a great variety of styles coming from the category in South Africa, well represented in our selection of 20 favorites below. Some of the wines have quite a bit of power and structure, with deeper fruit character, spice and contribution from oak, but most wines on the list are well suited to be popped into an ice bucket and smashed with an outdoor lunch – accessible when young and absolutely delicious.
See my selection of the top 20 South African Grenache wines below (in alphabetical order).