Grenache / Garnacha wine grape

Grenache / Garnacha
The red grape Grenache originated in northern Spain, where it is called Garnacha. From there it spread to southern France, Sardinia (where it is known as Cannonau) and then around the world. It's a late-ripening variety that prefers hot, dry conditions. Something of a chameleon, it is used in a variety of styles from fruity rosés to sweet fortified wines. As a dry red it can produce both medium-bodied, fruity reds for young drinking and full, concentrated wines that have great ageing potential. Once the commonest red grape in the world, it's still the third most planted red grape in both France and Spain yet is not all that well known to consumers.

This is because most of it is used in blends. The thin-skinned, pale-coloured Grenache has a tendency to high yields and high sugar levels, producing pale but full-bodied, sweet-fruited, berry-flavoured wines with high alcohol and lowish acid and tannin levels. Consequently it's usually blended with something darker and more structured. In Spain that's usually Tempranillo; in France it's Syrah and, to a lesser extent, Mourvèdre. Grenache is the main grape of Chateauneuf-du-Pape and the rest of the southern Rhône, and their GSM (Grenache/Syrah/Mourvèdre) blend is increasingly fashionable in the New World.

Yet Grenache can produce fabulous wine on its own, if yields are kept low enough, especially from old bush vines which naturally produce fewer, more concentrated grapes. The famous Ch. Rayas in Chateauneuf is 100% Grenache, and it is by far the dominant grape in the best of the highly sought-after reds from northern Spain's Priorato.

Grenache reached the New World early, being widely planted by settlers in California and Australia. In Australia it was mostly used to produce fortified wines, as it does in southern France's sun-baked Roussillon region (Banyuls, Maury, Rivesaltes), and was Australia's most-planted red grape until overtaken by Shiraz in the 1960s. Winemakers are now returning to this once-overlooked resource. Old-vine Grenache and GSM blends from areas like the Barossa Valley can be superb.

Get in touch