Updated: Dec 14, 2020
Mediterranean grape “par excellence”, the heat-loving Grenache (also known as Garnacha/ Cannonau /Tinto Aragonés) is a black grape known for its generous strawberry nose with notes of raspberry, cherry, figs, pepper, coffee, spices, sometimes “pot pourri”, roasted nuts, gingerbread, leather and… inebriating levels of alcohol!
Once the largest planted black grape in the world, Grenache conquered the Mediterranean from its power base in Aragon or Cataluña (Spain) to Languedoc, Roussillon, Southern Rhône, Provence (France), Sardinia (Italy), Washington State (USA) and Mc Laren Vale & Barossa (Australia).
Traditionally abused to produce the highest possible levels of alcohol for table wines, cheap rosés or fortified wines, Grenache’s production diminished drastically in the 60s, 70s and 80s. In the 1990’s, however, a growing interest of Rhône wines and Priorat shed the light on this grape which, when yields are controlled can produce amazing wines in the regions of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Gratallops, Rioja, Barossa, McLaren Vale, Washington State to name a few.
As a thin-skin grape, Grenache is often blended with a little of other local grapes: Cabernet, Merlot and Cariñena in Priorat; Tempranillo in Rioja; Syrah & Mourvèdre in Southern Rhône and Australia, mostly to add black fruit notes and structure (tannins and acids) for ageability. When oak is used, it is done subtly.
For a pretty good overview of what Grenache can produce, taste a Garnacha Rosado from Navarra, a Châteauneuf-du-Pape by Rayas, a Priorat by Ferrer Bobet, an Australian from Tim Adams and aGrenache-based Vin Doux Naturel by Mas Amiel… To learn more about grape varieties, where they grow and how they taste, enroll the next WSET Level 2 Award in Wines.
Clarke, O. & Rand, M. (2015) Grapes & Wines. New York: Sterling Epicure
Robinson, J. (2015) The Oxford Companion to Wine.New York: Oxford University Press Inc