Grenache is a red grape, which originated in the southern Rhone valley, and is now one of the most widely planted grapes in the world. As well as its native France, it is now grown all over the world, but primarily in Australia and California. It is the second most widely planted grape in Spain, where it is known as ‘Garnacha’.
What Is Grenache?
In France, where it is also grown in Languedoc-Roussillon, as well as its native Rhone, it is generally used as part of a blend, and is used in up to 80% of all the wines made in the southern Rhone, especially Cotes du Rhone and also Chateauneuf du Pape. It also produces the rose wines of the Rhone, Tavel and Lirac. At its best, it’s an integral part of some of the great Rhone reds such as Chateauneuf du Pape and Gigondas.
It works as part of a blend of grapes for both Rose and red wines from Languedoc and Provence, and is also the grape used for the sweet wines of Banyuls.
In Spain, it is an integral part of many blends, and is grown extensively in the north and east; traditionally most famous in Navarra, it is now coming in to its own, in the premium, up and coming area of Priorat.
In Australia, it’s a key part of the increasingly popular GSM styles of wine, alongside Syrah and Mourvedre, which reflect the styles of Rhone reds, and it occupies a similar position in California.
It is a very hardy grape variety, withstanding drought, and is best grown on bush trellises.
What Is The Background To Grenache
The Grenache is thought to have originated in the northern Spanish region of Catalonia, and spread through southern France, during the Aragon era – it is also found in Sardinia, where it is known as the ‘Cannonau’ grape. Its plantings spread across southern France, until it reached the Rhone, where it became very well established by the middle of the 19th century. It also became an integral part of Spanish blends, following the phylloxera epidemic, as a tougher, and more resistant grape variety than the Tempranillo.
It was one of the first grapes to be well established in Australia, as its ability to withstand heat and drought conditions made it ideal for the climate there. It also produces high yields, thus making it an excellent blending grape for entry level wines. It was the most widely planted grape in Australia until it was overtaken by Shiraz in the 1960s.
It has also performed extremely well in California, where, once again, it is grown because of its hardiness and its ability to produce high yields and withstand heat; it is an integral part of the ‘blush’ phenomenon, making vast quantities of sweet pink wine, including a single varietal ‘White Grenache’ from Gallo.
What Does Grenache Taste Like?
The Grenache grape has very high alcohol potential, and needs time to ripen; it has a thin skin, and adds spiciness, but also a ripe, juicy, fruitiness to a blend, with a herbaceous edge. Despite the fact that it thrives in hot, dry climates, it has soft tannin structure.
In Southern Rhone blends, it helps produce red wines which vary from soft, herby, spicy, easy drinking young blends, such as Cotes du Rhone, to rich powerful and concentrated blends, which structure, depth and ageing potential, as characterised by Chateauneuf du Pape, Gigondas and Vacqueyras.
In Spain, it varies widely – grown in Priorat, it is responsible for very high quality, powerfully intense and structured wines, with characters of figs, wild herbs, tar, and black fruits. In Navarra, and where it is used as a blend, it is softer, adding fragrance and spice.
The Australian and Californian GSM blends are bold, spicy, attractive, and rich in character, and Grenache is an integral part here.
In terms of Rose, it produces dry wines, with soft, red berry and creamy, easy drinking flavours, with a hint of spice. In its guise as ‘White Grenache’ in US sweet blends, it has similar characteristics to the White Zinfandel.
Where Is Grenache From?
The Grenache grape originated in northern Spain, and is now seen as an integral part of the vast majority of Southern Rhone blends, where it has made its home. It is also grown extensively still, in northern Spain, and also Australia and California.
What Does Grenache Go With?
Grenache adds spiciness, heat and fullness to a wine; it goes with all types of food, depending on the style in which it is made.
In the softer, cotes du Rhone styles, it works well with all manner of cured meats, sausages, gammon, and is a great red for a picnic, or an alfresco lunch, especially if lightly chilled.
Chateauneuf, Gigondas, Vacqueyras, and other rich spicy Rhone reds need big steaks, venison, game stew, and braised meats to be shown at their best. The same is true for Priorat and for the New World GSM blends.
A plate of mature cheeses is also a great partner.
In its Rose guise, as a sweet Californian white, try it with a bowl of strawberries, or even a mild curry. In its dry state, it is perfect with chargrilled prawns, tuna nicoise and seared salmon.