You probably know by now that I'm a big fan of Grenache...but mostly those from the Southern Rhone and certain areas of Spain. What I like most about Grenache is that it's capable of showing very early the subtle nuances that take decades to develop with Cabernet-based wines. The grape is not very tannic and any attempt to beef up the tannin through new oak or small barrel aging is a fatal flaw, as far as I'm concerned, because the oak tends to mask or destroy the spicy, peppery, herbaceous nuances that I love most.
Domaine du Vieux Chene, located on the Plan de Dieu just west of Gigondas and Vacqueyras, has some very good Grenache vines that are used in varying proportions in their Cotes du Rhone and Cotes du Rhone Villages wines. This 100% Grenache is a simple Vin de Pays de Vaucluse from vines close to the winery itself, but even some of these Grenache vines are 70 years old. The color is the deep crimson to be expected from Grenache--not as bluish or dark as the Syrah-dominant Saint Esprit from Delas described below. As to be expected from Grenache, the nose is lush--ripe peppery, briary, strawberries. There is Grenache ripeness on the palate as well...but not too ripe. Vieux Chene's Cuvee Friande from 2007 (still on the shelves) is a bit ripe for my taste, but this 2009 Grenache has a sense of restraint that keeps you sniffing and tasting all the corners and crevices. And there is ample reward for your effort. Has the subtlety of Pinot Noir but with more power. The pepper and spice add structure, and the finish gets better with each sip.
All of Vieux Chene's wines are 100% organic, and they are billed as such at Sawall's Health Food store in Kalamazoo. For $8.99, this wine offers more depth and personality than Grenache wines from California or Australia selling for several times that much. And it's less fiery than the similarly priced Grenache wines from Spain. On the shelf beside it, for $9.99, is the 2010 Domaine du Vieux Chene La Dame Vieille, a blend of Grenache and Syrah that I'm anxious to try.