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January 3, 2010

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Grenache produces great cold weather reds

The cold January days and nights in Shanghai remind me of the bone-chilling winter seasons in New York. They also stimulate thoughts of red wines that warm the body and go beautifully with foods we eat in the winter.

While there are numerous big, rich red wines that are suitable for the cold weather, some of my personal favorites are made with the Mediterranean grape grenache.

This variety originated in Spain where it's called grenacha and is now cultivated throughout the wine world. Some of the best examples come from the Southern Rhone Valley, Spain and Australia. Grenache grapes are often blended with other varieties like syrah, mourvedre and other grapes and tend to make rustic fruity wines with intriguing peppery qualities.

Here are some picks to warm you on a cold day with winter meals.?

Chateauneuf-du-Pape is the name of a style of wine and appellation in the Southern Rhone Valley in France. The name literally means "the new castle of the Pope" referring to a summer palace built for the Popes in the 1300s in the city of Avignon.

Good examples of these wines offer an abundance of rich dark fruits and spices with long smooth tannic finishes. Chateauneuf-du-Pape wines may be made with up to 13 different varieties with grenache playing the most prominent role.

The wines' earthy nature makes them perfect companions for hearty winter meat stews as well as some Chinese-style hot pots. I recommend trying a good Chateauneuf-du-Pape like Domaine Vielle Julienne's 2005 with the popular Chinese-style lamb hotpot.

The rich flavors of the lamb chunks gain added distinction from the elegant fruitiness of the wine. ?

Another great winter wine from Southern Rhone is Gigondas which, like Chateauneuf-du-Pape, has its own appellation.

In this predominantly grenache wine where shiraz and mourvedre play a supporting role, you will discover abundant, almost chewy fruit flavors with lots of intriguing peppery sensations that are lovely with hearty Western and Chinese style meat stews.

Although better known for their Northern Rhone wines, the producer E. Guigal also makes an excellent Gigondas that's a great companion to a Chinese venison stew.

In this pairing, the spicy fruitiness of the wine mitigates any gaminess in the meat and adds new flavor dimensions to the savory sauce.

The tannins in the wine also facilitate digestion. Other fine Grenache dominated wines that pair well with winter dishes include the very concentrated reds from the newly popular Priorat region of Spain and the full-bodied, fruity Rosemount, GSM wine from Australia.


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