Existentially yours: Spain or France? Grenache or Garnacha?

Being a full-time wine nut, a part-time history buff and a natural worrywart, I often find it perplexing how grape vines native to one wine producing nation can be claimed equally (and with a straight face I might add) by another wine country as their own native variety.  Yes, these are the serious questions I often fret over in the wee hours of the morning.  Keeps me up at night!

For example, which grape came into existence first, Grenache or Garnacha Tinto? According to science, they’re the same grape variety.  Think about it!  It’s the vinous equivalent of the chicken or the egg.  I mean: is it the French grape (Grenache) that invaded Iberia first or the Spanish interloper (Garnacha) that cleverly infiltrated the Southern French countryside?  Could the all-star red grape of Chateauneuf-du-Pape really have started out as a benchwarmer in Aragon?

Modern-day ampelographers (those DNA nerds charged with identifying and classifying all things grapevine) will tell you it is clearly of Spanish heritage.  But, try telling that to a French winemaker!   Odds are that you’ll get a quizzical look for asking such a ridiculous question.  How could any grape that makes wine in France not be from France?  Makes pretty good sense to me!

Vexing questions, these are.  Right up there with the other weighty issues that gnaw upon my psyche like “did the Big Bang really happen?” or “will the Cubs ever win another World Series?”  Furthermore, how certain can we be that Mourvedre and Monastrell are really be the same grape too?  For that matter, does Carignan really equal Mazuelo?  DNA testing says they are.  But how reliable are those DNA tests anyway?  99.5 percent give or take a thousandth of a percent?  Perish the thought!  That still leaves a .5 percent of chance of something being terribly wrong with my wine-perfect world!

Oh, the horror!!!

Meltdown eminent!  Get hold of yourself, Jim!  Relax!  Breathe through your eyeballs for cryin’ out loud!

Find your center, Zen-like.  Be one with your wine universe.  Calm state returning.  That’s a bit better.

My doctor says I should consider a course in stress management.  He might be right!  Tonight I think I’ll pop the cork on a nice bottle of Chateauneuf-du-Pape, slowly sip a few glasses, ponder the existence of Grenache, and consider taking him up on his offer.

Jim Greeley, Wine Supervisor, SW Florida

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