Learn about Grenache –  including one of our favorite brands, great Grenache food pairings and more.

Grenache Wine | Learn About Variations of Grenache, Garnacha and Red Cannonau

Grenache grapes grow on the vine. Image courtesy Lodi Wine.

Discover Grenache Wine

Grenache is a black grape varietal used to produce both lean and medium-bodied, black and blue fruit forward red wines. While it’s most famously grown throughout France (France currently holds the most acreage of Grenache at over 230,000), the grape itself likely originated in Spain, where it’s called ‘Garnacha’ and thrives due to its tolerance to hot and arid climates.

 Update! Grenache (Garnacha) is likely native to Sardinia. In a relatively recent DNA analysis done on fossilized Cannonau red grape seeds found in Sardinia (Red Cannonau is another name for Grenache in Sardinia), it was determined that the Grenache grape variety likely originated on this Italian Mediterranean island.

Another personal favorite, Grenache is a fun grape variety in that it’s spicy, grounded with soft tannins, fruit-forward and medium bodied. This allows for wines to be paired with an endless assortment of food.

Like its Spanish cousin Tempranillo, Grenache wines will have a lower viscosity than, for example, a Syrah. It typically maintains a black cherry and red garnet color in the glass while being aromatic with strawberry and plum on the nose.

A large portion of Grenache and Garnacha wine drinkers around the world appreciate this grape for its drinkability while young. Youthful Grenache gives way to fruit-forwardness and a spicy nature, all adding to Grenache’s drinkability. However it is worth mentioning that many old world wine makers are discovering how much more savory this wine can become if it were to be aged. While trying to find a balance between the young flavoric attributes, some Vintners note that it’s within aged Grenache and Garnacha that you may find the most heart in this variety.

More About the Grenache Grape

Grenache Wine Taste | Grenache Food Pairing Recipes

Grenache grows most efficiently in arid climates with dry, granite-like soil. Image courtesy DrVino.

Grenache grapes, for a majority of winemakers, ripen very late in the wine growing season. This requires a longer season along with hot and dry growing conditions. Because it takes so long to ripen, the sugar content which has accumulated within the grape at harvest tends to be very high. Most Grenache and Grenache red wine blends tend to be dry, meaning their alcohol content is typically high.

The skin of Grenache grapes is moderately thin, making for an interspersed and soft tannin structure in pure Grenache wines. It’s not an overly structured or meaty wine, and is often blended with varietals like Syrah and Mourvèdre to enhance backbone and tannic content. These blends are often referred to as GSM’s.

 Looking for a great GSM? Try out the Try out the Yalumba “Strapper” from Barossa Valley, Australia. Have it delivered by Wine.com.

Fermentation is often longer and can be done in cooler environments to increase the freshness of the wine and extract the most phenols (color) from the skin of Grenache wine grapes. Oak is sometimes used to boost color and flavor profiles.

Learn about Grenache Wine Characteristics & Grenache Food Pairing

Juicy Grenache wine grapes grow late into the growing season in Provence, France. Image courtesy Bloomberg.com.

Notable Grenache (Garnacha) Growing Regions

Currently, Grenache is grown vastly throughout the Rhone region of France and Central to North-eastern Spain – West of Catalunya. It grows well in dry, warm and well-drained soil.

In Priorat, Spain, Garnatxa vines thrive in schist and slate-based soil where they strain for their nutriment. Ultimately, these vines produce rich and complex wines with an elevated alcohol content. Sometimes over 17%!

Rhone and Catalunya provide unique granite, limestone and shale soil compositions – which retain heat well. This further enhances not only Grenaches’ ability to grow well, but also its flavor profile.

New World wine growing regions throughout Southern California and the Hill Country of Central Texas have also had strong success in producing Grenache. The climate and soil makeup in these regions is similar to that of Southern France and Central Spain.

It is important to note that depending on the region Grenache is grown and how it it is aged, it can vary in flavor, backbone and intensity. The below flavor profile is based off of the most common Grenache (Garnacha) attributes. Please take a look at our Bottle Briefings for specific tasting notes on various Grenache blends.

What does Grenache Wine Taste Like?

Common Flavors and Aromas

  • Fruit: Black, Blue & Red (Plum, Strawberry, Black Cherry, Black Currant)
  • Earth & Mineral Notes: Granite, Shale
  • Additional Complexities: White Pepper, Black Pepper, Asian Spice

Structure

  • Body: Medium
  • Sugar: Dry
  • Tannins: Low
  • Acid: Low-Medium
  • Alcohol: High (14.5%-16.5% ABV)
  • Finish: Smooth, Fruit Forward, Medium

Terroir

  • Soil: Schist, Limestone, Granite
  • Climate: Warm – Hot
  • Notable Regions: Rhone, France | Navarra, Spain | Fredericksburg, TX | Rioja, Spain | Santa Barbara, California | Sonoma Valley, California | San Joaquin Valley, California | Barossa Valley, Australia | Priorat, Spain
Grenache Food Pairing | Chicken Tikka Masala Recipe

Chicken Tikka Masala is one of our favorite Grenache wine and food pairings! Checkout the recipe over at 12 Tomatoes.

 Food Pairing Grenache Wines

If you’re into meat, try going with leaner cuts and no shortage of seasoning. Mexican food, cajun-spiced heavy bodied fish and spicy Indian dishes are all equally perfect Grenache food pairings. Try out some of these great recipes alongside your next glass of Grenache, Red Cannonau or Garnacha wine!

Additional sources include Tablas Creek VineyardSnoothRhone-WinesWine Folly, & The Wallstreet Journal.

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2 Comments

  • Dear Greig,

    Please , I do invite you for becomming on Linkdin a member of the Grenache Amabassdor Group. I started the group since the first world conference about Grenache in 2010 in our Rhone region. I am very happy that you give attention on the Grenache grape. Only I critisise a few elements in your article
    Thankfull we are if we see articles on Grenache. Thanks to Marlene Angelloz I saw it on facebook.
    The first part of the article talks about grenache giving “medium bodied ” wines.
    It depends on what you call medium bodied. I can let you taste wines of Grenache , that even half an hour later are still sitting there in your mouth and seem to linger on endlessly.
    The latest news about grenache is that it might originate from Sardegnia ( Cananaou) as we have found lately fossiled seeds of this grape on the island. That the grape is very old and meaby one of the few basic grapes in the beginning arround the Mediteranian is for me of no doubt. Obviously Grenache is not hugely tannic. No , it does not pull the teeth out of your gumms, but that is not the reason why it is blended with Syrah , to give some. Grenache is sensitive for oxydation and it needs partners that bring back bone and do not combine with O2; Greig tells us that it is late harvested: once again, I would never make such a statement , because that changes from region to region, even in a 30 minutes drive from each other. The Grenache has a lower viscosity as Syrah, @ dear Geaig I wish that you explain “What you mean with Viscosity”? I do agree that a winemaker , could take the chance to wait as long as possible for getting to perfect ripeness. Could you make a 100% Grenache , yes, but on a few conditions. 1) Very old vines, therefor low yielding and you need a perfect vintage for Grenache. That means taking the risk of letting the grapes as long as you can on the vines (Indian summer effect) And he has not explained that Grenache is certainly a wine that can be aged . In this article it shows with terms of medim body and fruity that it should be a wine for fast consumption. That is the trick with Grenache. It is very persuasive in the beginning , very seductive to its fruity and easy going caracter, but never the less it has aging potential. Therefor , please do read also the article with comments of Alex Hunt.

    http://www.thedrinksbusiness.com/2015/02/grenache-a-brighter-future/

    Sincere greetings Mike Rijken Wine Safari

    • Greig

      @Mike,

      It’s wonderful as always to get to hear from someone so plugged into the Rhone region. The first thing I must note is that this article discusses the most common attributes associated with Grenache as a variety. I find Grenache to be medium bodied the vast majority of times I drink it. I realize that because of the way some winemakers blend it or because of the terroir this can vary.

      Do you have a source discussing the discovery of these fossilized grape seeds from Sardegnia? I would very much like to note this important discovery and amend it to the article if I can verify the finding. Please let me know.

      Regarding the late harvesting — for me, this is important to mention. Because this grape does typically ‘thrive’ in hot environments, a large number of wine makers in these warmer regions do harvest it very late. It’s also the main reason why the sugar content is typically so high. While this is not always the case, it is a very common method.

      I do not mention that Grenache is meant for fast consumption in this article. Though, I can’t deny that some of the younger palates in the United States have been migrating to Grenache and Garnacha because of its fruityness, and as such is becoming more of a household, drinkable wine. Again, this depends on the wine maker and is highly subjective. On the other hand, while I don’t mention the specifics with regard to aging Grenache, I am aware of its age-ability and the beautiful effect it has on this particular wine. Alex does a great job describing this in more detail and his article is definitely worth a read.

      With regards to “viscosity” — it simply refers to the ‘thickness’ of the liquid end product, not to the ripeness or freshness of flavor.

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