Grenache (gruh-NASH), also known as Garnacha in Spain and cannonau in Italy, is one of the most widely planted grapes in the world. Since it is often used for blends such as Châteauneuf-du-Pape and GSM (a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre), it is not as well known as wines like pinot noir. Grenache is a high alcohol wine bursting with red berries and notes of spice and citrus. It pairs well with a wide variety of flavorful and spicy foods.
- Regions: Rhône Valley, Languedoc-Roussillon, Rioja, Sardinia, California, Australia
- Origin: Aragon, Spain
- Sweetness: Dry
- Color: Vibrant red
- ABV: 13–16%
Grenache vs. Syrah
Grenache sometimes gets confused with syrah since the two red wine varieties are frequently used in blends together. They are grown in similar warm-weather regions like Côtes du Rhône and central California. Syrah is deeper and darker in color and body, often an inky purple, with an initial punch of flavor and a spicy finish. The two are often blended for a perfectly balanced red wine.
Taste and Flavor Profile
The main flavor profile of grenache or Garnacha is sometimes described as fruit roll-up. Red and dark fruits are at the forefront like black cherry, raspberry, blackberry, and strawberry balanced by a bit of spicy black pepper, cinnamon, and star anise as well as hints of tobacco and bay leaf. The nose is similar, with jammy fruits, citrus zest, and spice. Grenache tends to be high alcohol with low to moderate acidity and tannins. It has a luxurious, silky mouthfeel and lingering finish.
How to Taste Wine
Follow a few steps when tasting wine to ensure you have the best experience:
- Look: Take a good look at the wine, examining the color and opacity through the glass.
- Smell: Swirl your glass for 10 seconds and take a quick whiff. Then stick your nose into the wine glass for a deep inhale, taking in your first impressions of the wine.
- Taste: Take a small sip and let it roll around your mouth. Note the acidity, sugar, tannins, and alcohol content when first tasting, then move on to tasting notes (berries, spice, wood) and finally the finish.
Grapes and Wine Regions
Grenache or Garnacha is a variety of fruit as well as a type of wine. The red wine grape enjoys stony or sandy soil and warm climates like the Rhône Valley and Languedoc-Roussillon in the South of France, Rioja in Spain, Sardinia in Italy, Central California, and Australia. The grapes, typically harvested in the fall, are slow to ripen and enjoy a long time on the vine, resulting in high sugar levels. The finished wine is high in alcohol but still balanced with flavors of bright fruit.
Grenache is aged in steel tanks, oak barrels, or a mixture of the two. It is used in a number of famous red wine blends, including:
- Châteauneuf-du-Pape: An iconic and sometimes prohibitively expensive French blend from a region in south France of the same name. It's a flavorful, fruity, and herby blend that is grenache-forward with a variety of other reds mixed in, usually including syrah and Mourvèdre among others.
- Côtes du Rhône: Technically a region in France rather than a specific variety, many of the red wines that emerge from Côtes du Rhône are dark red, jammy grenache blends.
- GSM: GSM is made in France and Australia, and it's now one of the signature wines of California's Central Coast. It is typically made of equal parts of each wine but can be adjusted by the winemaker. Grenache-syrah blends are also popular.
- Red Blends: Grenache can be found playing an active role in a number of red wine blends from France, Italy, Spain, Australia, and America. One hundred percent grenache wines can also be found.
Grenache's bright red fruit and herbal and spicy undertones mean it can stand up to a variety of foods. Try it with grilled or roasted meats like garlic and herb-rubbed lamb chops or pan-seared duck breasts. It's also delicious with hearty vegetables like grilled eggplant or spicy dishes like kimchi, hot salsas, curries, or dahl.
Serve grenache at 60 to 65 F in a red wine glass. Decant for an hour before serving (less time for older vintages).
Key Producers, Brands, and Buying Tips
Grenache and grenache blends are widely available at wine and liquor stores and frequently appear on restaurant menus. Many domestic vineyards will also let you order directly and have the wine shipped to your home or a store (state law permitting). The following quality brands are a good place to start:
- Château de Beaucastel
- Henri Bonneau
- Crous St. Martin
- Stephen Ross
- Tablas Creek
- Celler Mas Doix
- Álvaro Palacios