Domaine of the Bee Field of the Bee, IGP Côtes Catalanes Blanc, France 2021 (from £16, thesampler.co.uk; domaineofthebee.com; villeneuvewines.com; chesterswinemerchants.co.uk) Like many people, I’ve been fully converted to the joys of the grenache (or garnacha as it’s known in Spain) grape variety over the past few years, thanks largely to a new wave of red wines made from the variety in a light, soft, juicily red-fruited, intensely drinkable style. Domaine of the Bee – an estate in the rugged far south of France’s grenache country near the border with Spain owned by English couple Justin and Amanda Howard-Sneyd with their French friend Philippe Sacerdot – makes one of the best of this breed I’ve tasted recently: a gloriously rosehip-tangy, raspberry-racy coulis gently infused with wild rosemary and thyme that goes by the name of The Bee Side 2021 (£19.50, domaineofthebee.com). The Bee team make several other impressive garnacha (and carignan) red wines in a plusher, deeper style, but they also do very good things with grenache noir’s white (and grey-ish pink) cousins: grenache blanc and grenache gris in the drowsily honey, honeysuckle, and peach-scented high-summer cuvee of Field of the Bee.
The Search Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Roussanne 2021 (£9.99, Waitrose) Given that the blanc is a mutation of the noir original, it’s not surprising that places that are good at making grenache reds tend to be the places where grenache blanc thrives. In what has been traditionally the home of the world’s most sought-after grenache-based reds, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, in the fat pebble-strewn soils around Avignon in the southern Rhône Valley, for example, grenache blanc is the mainstay of the lesser-spotted white blends. With their characteristically heady, full-bodied allure, and, in the case of Le Vieux Donjon Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc 2020 (£45, yapp.co.uk), the exquisite combination of both the ripe summer fruit and spring blossom of an apricot orchard, they can be at least as beguiling and evocative in their way as the reds. Grenache blanc is also increasingly popular in blends in South Africa, where the Rhône is a source of inspiration for winemakers working in the Cape’s warmer regions: The Search’s Rhône-ish blend is lively, peachy, yet fresh – and excellent value.
El Garbi Blanco, Terra Alta, Spain 2020 (£20, riseandvine.co.uk) The rough equivalent of Châteauneuf-du-Pape in Spain – the place where garnacha is used to make solar-powered red wines of enormous complexity that command generally high prices – is Priorat in Catalonia. Here, too, you’ll find garnacha blanca (or garnatxa blana to use the Catalan spelling) as the most significant white variety, blended, again like Châteauneuf, with a handful of other varieties in the region’s relatively small, but intensely beguiling, selection of white wines. Terroir al Limit Històric Blanc 2019 (£25.50, nattyboywines.co.uk) is one of my favourites, a gently grippy, full-flavoured dry white in which garnacha blanca is pepped up with a little macabeu and that takes you directly to the woody herb fragrance of a Mediterranean hillside. For a sense of what garnacha blanca can do on its own, however, another high-up Catalan region, Terra Alta, has made the variety something of a speciality in recent years, with the broad mouthfilling rich peach and creaminess given freshness by a cool underlying stoniness.