Grenache (Garnacha) is a red-wine grape grown extensively in France, Spain, Australia and the United States. It is a 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 grown extensively, 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.
In France Grenache is most widely planted in the southern Rhone Valley and throughout both Provence and Languedoc-Roussillon. It's a grape that, used in blends, provides winemakers with all sorts of possibilities. Grenache-based rosé is one of southern France’s signature wine styles, of which 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. It is outplanted only by its modern blending partner, Tempranillo. It is grown in almost every area of Spain, but most notably in the north and east. 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.
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.
Grenache has many guises. Combined with Syrah and Mourvedre (Monastrell in Spain), it creates a blend that is of great historical importance to both the Cotes du Rhone and Australia. It is the main constituent of Chateauneuf-du-Pape and Gigondas wine, generally making up around 75 percent of the blend.
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 and wine matching suggestions:
Europe: Polbo a feira (octopus with olive oil and paprika) (rosé); roasted squab (pigeon) with quince purée; black forest cake (schwarzwälder kirschtorte) (fortified)
Asia: Tuna tataki (rosé); beetroot curry (thel-dala)
Americas: beef, potato and cheese stew (locro)
Australasia/Oceania: Lamb cutlets
Africa/Middle East: Spicy lamb meatballs in a tomato and cilantro sauce