Everything You Need to Know About Grenache
Grenache is one of the greatest grape varieties that doesn't quite get the attention it deserves. Sommeliers and other wine professionals tend to have great respect for it, but among consumers, it is far too often overshadowed by more famous red varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah. That shouldn't be the case: Not only are varietally labeled bottlings of Grenache capable of fantastic complexity in places like California's Central Coast and Spain's Campo de Borja and Cariñena regions, but its role in the legendary blends of Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Rioja cannot be overstated.
To make the most of Grenache, and to understand its contributions around the world, check out our guide to Grenache below.
What Is Grenache Wine?
Grenache wine is produced in many countries and in a range of styles. Its most well-known versions are red, but Grenache also plays an important role in rosés, too. In most of the world it is referred to as Grenache or, less frequently, Grenache Noir, but in Spain and other Spanish-speaking wine-producing countries, it's known as Garnacha. No matter what it's called, Grenache / Garnacha is the source of excellent red and rosé wine, whether bottled on its own or blended with other grape varieties. Grenache Blanc, or Garnacha Blanca, is the white version of the grape variety, and important in the white wines of Priorat in Spain and the Rhône Valley (and crucial in the Southern Rhône Valley) in France.
Where Does Grenache Wine Come From?
Grenache is most famously employed in France and Spain. In France, it is one of the key grape varieties in the Rhône Valley, and it's one of the 13 permitted grape varieties in the Southern Rhône's Châteauneuf-du-Pape, often playing a key role. It also is frequently found in Côtes du Rhône red blends, lending them vivid cherry and scrubby dried herb notes. Not far from the Rhône Valley, in Provence, Grenache is a key component in the region's renowned rosé wines, too.
In Spain, Garnacha can be widely found in places like Campo de Borja and Cariñena (the region, not the grape of the same name) and as key components in the famous red blends of Rioja (where it joins Tempranillo) and Priorat, where it is often blended with Cariñena (the grape variety also known as Carignan), Cabernet Sauvignon, and more. In California, it does notably well in the Central Coast — producers like Bonny Doon and Sine Qua Non are deeply tied to Grenache – and in Australia it has found a happy home in McLaren Vale. In Sardinia, where it's called Cannonau, it produces excellent reds, too. The sweet wines of Maury and Banyuls in France's Roussillon are dominated by Grenache. And given its ability to thrive in warmer climates, it is also no surprise that Israeli producers are finding success with it, too.
Why Should You Drink Grenache Wine?
Wines produced from Grenache have the potential to appeal to a broad range of wine lovers. The Newfound Grenache from Shake Ridge Vineyard in the Sierra Foothills of California, for example, is bright, energetic, and bursts with mouthwatering red berry fruit, whereas the Herman Story "On the Road" Grenache is a far more powerful and decadent expression. Both are excellent, accurate representations of the wide spectrum of aromas, flavors, and textures that Grenache is capable of.
Grenache is also wonderfully food-friendly. With its typical underpinning of spices and scrubby herbs, it works well alongside grilled meats, serves as an admirable partner for fruit-based sauces, and even sings with pizza. Australian GSM blends (Grenache / Syrah / Mourvedre) are classics with barbecue.
On top of that, Grenache is an excellent lens through which to experience the character of the place it was grown. Harvesting Grenache from the famously rock-strewn vineyards of parts of Châteauneuf-du-Pape results in a totally different expression of the variety than when it's picked from the schist-based land of Spain's Priorat region. And in a world of generally increasing temperatures, Grenache is proving to be a very good option to handle these often challenging conditions.
What Does Grenache Taste Like?
Grenache tends to be built on a base of vivid cherry and berry fruit. In warmer vintages, those fruit notes can be quite ripe and powerful; it's not uncommon to see Grenache-based wines with relatively high alcohol levels and often hints of licorice. Grenache also boasts spice notes that work well when blended with Syrah or Tempranillo, as well as dried or scrubby herb characteristics. Red Grenache is best enjoyed at slightly cooler than room temperature; a 20-minute stint in the refrigerator (assuming it's not being pulled directly from a 55-degree wine cellar) will allow the fruit and spice to really shine.
Five Great Grenache Wines
There are countless great Grenache wines on the market today. These five producers, listed alphabetically, are the perfect place to start.
Bonny Doon Vineyard
Established in 1983 by Randall Grahm, Bonny Doon has been a leader in honest, expressive American wines ever since. Le Cigare Volant, a Grenache blend from the Central Coast of California, is a reliably excellent expression.
Château d'Esclans "Whispering Angel" Rosé
This classic rosé incorporates Grenache into the blend, and it has become one of the most reliably popular bottlings from Provence on the American market.
Château La Nerthe
The venerable Châteauneuf-du-Pape producer's cellar-worthy flagship is based on Grenache but also incorporates other important varieties of the appellation.
A top producer from Priorat, Clos Mogador's eponymous bottling brings together a base of Garnacha with Carignan, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon to create a wine of complexity and age-worthiness.
Based in Australia's McLaren Vale region, Yangarra is one of the top Grenache producers in the country. Standout bottlings include High Sands, Ovitelli, and Hickinbotham Clarendon Grenache.