Although one of the most planted grape varieties in the world (around 200.000 hectares), Grenache is still unknown to a great number of wine drinkers, being in the shadow of the star varieties for the last decades – Cabernet & Co. Probably originating from Spain (named Garnacha there), it spreads all across the Mediterranean area during the late 19th century, where it produces some highly renowned wines today: Gigondas and Chateauneuf-du-Pape in the Rhone Valley, Priorat and Rioja in Spain, the wines from the Languedoc and Roussillon area, Provence…
Indeed, a great number of the world’s Grenache vineyards are based in France and Spain (some 85%), but also with growing success in other wine countries and regions, like South Australia and in California. Here the Rhone Rangers are advocates for this traditional Mediterranean grape variety as a great source of good wine.
Grenach wines often have a reputation of being powerful “fruit bombs”. This, in many cases istrue: Smooth and pleasantly mellow and smells of raspberry and strawberry… But they can be different, and a lot of wine lovers appreciate Grenache for its ability to ally power, delicacy, high aromatic complexity, fine tannins and an endless final.
To create these wines, you need great terroirs and attentive wine makers besides an interesting grape variety.
Lonesome rider and team worker
In certain wine regions, like the Rhone Valley for example, Grenache dares to overshadow Syrah and Mourvèdre. But even if it seems to rule out all other grapes in the Rhone Valley, it also appreciates good company. In many wines you will find Grenache accompanied by “old” and “new” grape varieties, really appreciating their characters: The fruitiness of Cinsault, the straight acidity of Carignan, the serious tannins of Mourvèdre in red and rosé wines, but also the powerful aromas of Viognier or the citric character of Vermentino in white wines.
But Grenache seems to have a particular affection towards Syrah. This highly appreciated grape variety seduces by its dark, mysterious colour, by aromas reaching from violet and raspberry to truffle and tobacco in old wines, and its legendary elegance that may temper the ardour of a Mediterranean Grenache.
But Grenache blends also popular outside of France. One of the best examples are the Australian “GSM” wines, inspired by the Rhone Valley and made of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre.
The Pinot noir of the south?
Grenache has indeed some aspects in common with the famous grape variety from Burgundy.
First: Both grape varieties are grown in three different colours - blanc, gris and noir, or white, grey and black – and their grapes are processed to white, red and rosé wines.
Second: Both are very delicate grape varieties and their entire potential of taste and odour may be only unveiled by skilful hands.
Third: Characterized by light colour and powerful fruit aromas, both varieties may surprise by smells of spices and flowers in white and red wines.
But let’s turn back to our sunny Grenache. It’s true that Grenache wines may be high in alcohol in warm wine regions, with 14 to 15 % by Vol. frequently being found. But luckily for us, the alcohol content is not that important, as the taste of the wine mainly depends on balance.
Yves Gras, a wine grower and maker from Gigondas once told me, that “the secret of a great terroir is to preserve acidity in our Grenache grapes”. Just another secret of great wines…
Finally, I can’t but warmly recommend having a look on Grenache wines. Just taste them and make up your own opinion. Your taste buds surely will appreciate the experience!