Grenache (a.k.a Garnacha) can be a overlooked as a simple grape that makes luscious strawberry fruited wines with easy going tannins. An enjoyable glass, but nothing memorable. But that impression is really quite wrong. Think of some of the most famous wines in the world and many of them have a bit of Grenache in them. Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Rioja or Priorat to name a few.
The grape is actually a bit of a chameleon, producing varying styles according to where it is grown. Take Rhone styles, they are more dark fruited, peppery and herbal. Spanish Garnacha styles are more juicy, soft and fruit forward. Whilst the Grenache grown in Australia has a sweeter strawberry compote fruit character, often with a brown sugar richness.
And this is also a great blending grape. Its fullness and rich fruit add a soft mid palate to more structured grapes. Hence it’s use as a partner in the Rhone to Syrah or Mourvedre. Likewise in Rioja blends, it adds a plush body to Tempranillo. In Australia they typically blend Grenache with Syrah and Mourvedre to produce a “GSM” blend in homage to the Rhone style. These wines can be super charged in flavour, silky in texture and very enticing.
And for a lesser known style the very same grape grows in Sardinia but is called Cannonau there.
Due to its exuberant fruit, it also produces lively, deep-coloured Rose wines in the Navarra region of Spain.
It you break down the structure of Grenache is it all a bit average – medium acidity, tannin and body. The stand out factor is that it is easily able to reach high alcohols, which if not managed well, makes the wines feel a little burny on the finish. It marries well with oak which adds a bit more structure to the grape and enhances its inherent spice flavours. It is a drought resistant grape which makes it a great vine to grow in hot climates. It oxidises easily and due to its soft structure doesn’t age well unless blended with other grapes.
Primitivo/Zinfandel, Merlot, Syrah
France: Rhone, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Spain: Rioja, Priorat, Calatayud
Australia: Mc Laren Vale
Medium spiced curries, tagines, lamb koftes or kebabs, ratatouille