Also known as Garnacha in Spain.
Grenache is an interesting variety. It is full of bright fruit flavours and floral notes. It is grown throughout the world creating a range of styles most commonly red and rosé. Grenache can produce very serious and complex, age-worthy wines with oak. At the opposite end, Grenache can make light, fruity reds and fresh crisp rosé.
Grenache requires warm climates to ripen properly. It grows well in dry, almost desert, drought-ridden areas due to the vines hardwood. Old vine Grenache is particularly sought after as the grapes have more concentration and depth of flavour. It is popular in both Old and New world wine regions, however, worldwide plantings are decreasing.
Grenache has thin skins and therefore, produces very light and pale coloured wines. When Grenache reaches maturity it develops very high levels of sugar and the resulting wines are generally high in alcohol.
Grenache can be found both blended often with Syrah, Carignan and Mourvèdre or solo.
The flavours of Grenache can range from fresh, light red fruits like strawberries and raspberries with a floral aroma. The more concentrated and complex wines can have flavours of dried thyme, leather, tobacco and cloves. Some wines can have a lovely white pepper spice.
There are some incredibly interesting dessert wines produced from Grenache. Vin Doux Naturel (VDN’s) are brilliant sweet, fortified wines from France with Maury and Banyuls being particularly celebrated.
Côtes du Rhône and the surrounding Crus.
The Côtes du Rhône is a huge appellation where red, white and rosé wines are produced however, the majority of wine is red. Grenache is the most important grape variety for red and rosé and Grenache Blanc (the white version) is used for white Côtes du Rhône.
There are 17 Crus in the Côtes du Rhône which don’t need to mention the more general ‘Côtes du Rhône’ appellation name. Grenache is important in many of them including
Châteauneuf-du-Pape where Grenache is one of the 13 permitted varieties allowed. It is also used in Gigondas and Vacqueyras.
Tavel AOC is another cru where only rosé wine production is allowed. A large number of grape varieties are permitted in Tavel however; Grenache is the base variety.
Another very large area in the south of France. Some of the worlds greatest rosé wines are produced in Provence from Grenache. A short maceration and gentle pressing give the very pale blush pink colour. The better wines can have lovely floral, lavender and strawberry aromas. Blending is very common.
In Sardinia Grenache is better known as Cannonau. It is a popular choice in Sardinia due to the very hot, dry climate. There is a region-wide appellation Cannonau di Sardegna DOC can be used all over the island and accounts for around a 1/5th of production. Red, rosé and fortified wines can be produced under the appellation. The sweet wines have at least 17.5% abv. and have flavours of figs, raisins and chocolate.
Arguably, the worlds’ best expression of old vine Garnacha. Cariñena (Carignan) is also popular here. The wines are intense, bold and have wonderful layers of flavour. It is one of only two appellations in Spain that have the top DOCa classification along with Rioja.
It is very hot in Priorat with little rainfall keeping yields low and these factors help produce interest, concentrated fruit. There is a special soil type called Llicorella in Priorat which is made from decomposed slate and quartz.
The wines are all aged in oak barrels and there are three levels; Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva which increase in ageing time.
Although not the most popular grape in Rioja it is the most planted variety in the warmest Rioja Baja.
Generally, in Navarra Garnacha is used to produce light red, easy drinking wines. Rosé wine is also produced and is both fruity and floral.
Due to the heat-loving nature of Grenache, it is suited to the warmest Californian sites. This generally produces very alcoholic wines. The best wines will remain in balance by having a fuller body and crisp acid.
In Australia, the GSM (Grenache, Syrah/Shiraz, Mourvèdre) blend is very popular. Barossa Valley and the McLaren Vale are two of Australia’s best Grenache growing regions.
Plantings of Grenache are rapidly growing in China but still fall far behind their love of Cabernet.