Certainly grenache has been playing a huge role in the "affordable everyday wine" category at our house for many years now. In fact just tonight we had a really nice one (see photo below), albeit white, which is not generally what people think of when they think of grenache.
There are SO many good grenache-based bottles out there it's hard to know where to start. I'm having one of those moments when I'm kicking myself for not having better discipline about taking notes. Of course it's a warm-climate grape, and while for sure there some instances that tend more toward the flabby fruit bomb side (not my favorite either, segbrown) and some that have more structure and balance, few will exhibit an unbearable lightness of being, if that's your thing. (I can put you onto some reds like that if you want.) One that is a kind of a touchstone for very affordable grenache, which we've been enjoying for years, is the Mas Donis from Celler de Capcanes, which seems pretty consistently good vintage-to-vintage. If this is still too jammy for you, then you can back off to a more restrained style like Kermit Lynch's consistently excellent and widely available negotiant Cotes du Rhone, which is one of those wines that doesn't hit you right off, but as you go through the meal its subtleties begin to become more apparent without ever shouting.
Anyway, in my late, lazy, and no-longer-connected years - I worked in the wine biz when I was in my 20s, and got exposed to a lot of stuff that is now untouchable for all but the wealthy - I basically have these strategies:
1) Find a good shop or two and get to know their best wine person. Except in the biggest stores, there's usually only one who really knows anything. Then calibrate your tastes with his (hers). You do this by providing feedback on recommendations. You don't have to like exactly the same stuff (although it's nice if you do). You just have to know what each other's biases are. My favorite local guy likes whites that are so austere and high acid they will burn your tonsils out. Fine. I know that, and can adjust. We laugh about it together. Even though I don't like stuff as lean and mean as he does, I still like it leaner and meaner than the vast majority of his customers, so we have a bond. :)
2) If you have something from a producer and you don't like it, don't buy anything from that estate again. There are SO many great wines out there, it just doesn't pay to waste time with something that doesn't fit. In my experience, I tend to like most of a producer's wines or none of them. It's an aesthetics thing of some kind.
3) Remember and write down the producers that make your toes curl. Seek them out year after year. Try all their wines. They will make you happy. Sometimes - I know this appears to contradict the previous bullet, but it doesn't, really - you will get one from a favorite producer that you don't like. Fine. If the producer is any good, s/he understands that if you never crash you're not going fast enough, so to speak. But the real revelation comes when a favorite winery gives you something that you don't like at first sip, and then grow to love. THAT is a lovely connection to make with another person and his or her land.
4) Note who the good importers are. Among the ones whose wines are available in my area, a small handful comprise probably more than half of all my wine purchases. There are, of course, other superb ones, but there are many more that are much less reliable. The following are notably good with French and Spanish wines.
- Peter Weygant (Weygant-Metzler)
- Kermit Lynch
- Eric Solomon
- Hand-Picked Selections
- Louis Dressner
- Robert (Bobby) Kacher
Edited by qcanoe - 7/23/13 at 6:42pm