Posted by: wineatlunch | July 1, 2010

The Great Grenache!

Grenache (pronounced gren-ash) is one of the most widely planted red wine grape varieties in the world , Grenache is most likely of Spanish origins, with the northern region of Aragon being its likely home. This varietal prefers hot, dry soils that are well drained but it relatively adaptable to all vineyard soil types. It also ripens late, so it needs hot, dry conditions such as those found in Spain, the south of France, and California’s San Joaquin Valley. Grenache is also used to make rosé wines in France and Spain, notably those of the Tavel district in the Côtes du Rhône.

Grenache is generally spicy, berry-flavored and soft on the palate with a relatively high alcohol content, often north of 15% ABV,  but it needs careful control of yields for best results. It tends to lack acid, tannin and color, and is usually blended with other varieties such as Syrah, Carignan and Cinsaut. The high levels of sugars and lack of harsh tannins, makes Grenache well adapted to the production of fortified wines, such as the vin doux naturels (VDN) of the Roussillon region and the “port-style” wines of Australia.

Grenache’s use in its principal wine regions of Spain and France is changing. In the late 20th century, total acreage of Grenache in Spain has been on the decline with the vineyards being uprooted in lieu of the more fashionable varietals like Tempranillo. In France,  as of 2000, Grenache was the third most widely planted red wine grape variety in France, behind Merlot and Carignan. From French nurseries, Grenache has become the fourth most widely propagated vine. Notably, in 2010, 270 Representatives from 22 Countries debate and create a blueprint for the future of the Grenache grape at the world’s first Grenache Symposium held in La Verrière, Crestet, Rhône Valley, France.

Grenache has a home in other countries as well.  It was one of the first varieties to be introduced to Australia in the 18th century and eventually became the country’s most widely planted red wine grape variety until it was surpassed by Shiraz in the mid 1960s. In Australia it is typically blended in “GSM” blends with Syrah and Mourvèdre. Grenache is also found in Catalonia, Sardinia, and the United States, although Grenache’s colonization of the New World has been limited apart from strongholds in Australia and California.

Some synonyms for Grenache are: Alicante, Garnatxa Negra, Retagliadu Nieddu, Roussillon, Tinto Menudo, Uva di Spagna.

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