Grenache (Garnacha) is a red-wine grape grown extensively in France, Spain, Australia and the United States. It is particularly versatile both in the vineyard and the winery, which may explain why it is one of the most widely distributed grapes in the world.
Grenache is the French (and most internationally recognized) name for the grape, but it has a number of synonyms. In Spain, where it is one of the country's flagship varieties, it is known as Garnacha, and on the island of Sardinia it has been known for centuries as Cannonau. Some believe that the grape originated in Sardinia, and was taken back to Spain by the Aragonese, who occupied the island in the 14th Century.
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In France, Grenache is most widely planted in the southern Rhone Valley and throughout both Provence and Languedoc-Roussillon. It is most commonly found alongside Syrah and Mourvedre in the classic Southern Rhone Blend (notably in Cotes du Rhone wines), and is the main grape variety in Chateauneuf-du-Pape.
Grenache's versatility provides winemakers with all sorts of possibilities. Grenache-based rosé is one of southern France's signature wine styles. The variety is common in Cotes de Provence wines along with Cinsaut and Mourvedre, and the finest examples come from the towns of Tavel and Lirac. Near the border with Spain, Grenache is behind the sweet wines of Banyuls. (© Proprietary Content, Wine-Searcher)
In Spain, Garnacha is the second most-planted red-wine grape variety, surpassed only by its modern blending partner Tempranillo. It is grown in almost every area of Spain, but most notably in the north and east – it is the key constituent in the prestigious wines of Priorat. The arrival of the grapevine pest phylloxera to the Iberian Peninsula in the 19th Century brought unexpected benefits to Garnacha; as the native vines were devastated (Rioja was particularly badly affected) it was robust Garnacha that replenished the vineyards and helped to re-energize the wine industry.
In the 1980s and 1990s, Grenache's status was reduced, but it survived efforts to eradicate it, returning to international favor in the 21st Century. Emerging wine-producing nations such as China, Mexico and Israel are now cultivating this ubiquitous grape variety.
Grenache is a vigorous and hardy vine with a strong wooden frame, often grown as free-standing bush vines. It is resistant to wind and drought, making it suitable for use in arid climates in California and South Australia. Because it is often grown in hot environments, the alcohol levels of Grenache-based wines can be very high, often surpassing 15 percent ABV. Some Australian winemakers use Grenache as the base for fortified, Port-style wines, but its most common use in the country is in the GSM blend – the classic combo of Grenache – Shiraz – Mourvedre.
Grenache berries have thin skin and ripen late in the growing season. Acid and tannins can be variable depending on growing conditions and cropping levels, but tend towards the low-medium end of the spectrum. However, old-vine Grenache grown in schist or stone, such as in Priorat and Chateauneuf-du-Pape, can produce profoundly concentrated wines capable of aging over many decades.
Produced as varietal wine, Grenache exhibits rich, spicy, berry flavors, particularly raspberry.
Synonyms include: Grenache Noir, Garnacha Tinta, Garnatxa, Lladoner, Tinto Aragones, Cannonau, Alicante, Granaccia, Tocai Rosso.
Food matches for Grenache include:
- Roasted squab (pigeon) with quince purée
- Spicy lamb meatballs in a tomato and cilantro sauce
- Beef, potato and cheese stew (locro)