Grenache

Published 27 August 2016   

Text: Herman von Bernhardi

Grenache is an unlikely hero in the world of grapes, until recently ignored in many of the new world wine producing countries. Among many great wines, it is the grape essentially responsible for two of the world’s more notable reds, Chateauneuf-du-Pape from France, and Priorat from Spain. I personally fell in love with this grape variety after tasting Kilikanoon Prodigal 100% Grenache from Australia; it was one of the best wines I have ever tasted. Rich in flavours and aromas of wild spices and berries, with firm structure, but at the same time silky and smooth tannins, it was simply a delicious wine that I never get bored of tasting over and over again.

Grenache (Garnacha) is one of the most planted red grape varieties in vineyards across the world, and it is grown extensively in France, Spain, Italy and Australia among other countries with different levels of popularity and success. This is a particularly versatile grape both in the vineyard and in the winery, which may explain why it is one of the most popular vines in the world.

Grenache is the French (and most recognized) name for the grape, but it has a number of other names. In Spain, where it is one of the country’s most popular varieties, it is known as garnacha and on the island of Sardinia it has been known for centuries as cannonau.

Some historians have suggested that the grape originated in Sardinia, and was taken back to Spain by the Aragonese people, who occupied the island in the 14th century. Because of Aragon’s location on the border of France in northern Spain, Garnacha travelled over the Pyrenees mountains and found another home in southern France. As a result of the language difference, the French called the grape ‘grenache’ and from the Languedoc area the grape travelled to the southern Rhone Valley where it became world famous.

In the southern Rhone, French winemakers were looking for a grape that could be blended with the other grape varieties of the region, and in grenache grapes they found what they were looking for adding body, alcohol and fruity flavours to their syrah and mourvedre wines.

In Australia it is typically blended in “GSM” blends with syrah (known as shiraz there) and mourvedre; but it can also be found as 100% grenache as it is in the case of Kilikanoon Prodigal Grenache. After I tasted this wine a few months ago I was really interested in this grape variety and the different styles of wines it can produce, from light rose to full flavoured and delicious red wines. Grenache 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.

Grenache grapes ripen late so they need warm, dry conditions to fully develop their potential. This generally spicy, berry-flavoured grape variety is soft on the palate and produces wine with rather high alcohol content, and it needs careful control of the harvest for best results. Grenache berries have thin skin and acidity levels and tannin structure can be variable, depending on growing conditions but they generally tend towards the low to medium acidity and soft tannins. However, grenache vines grown in stone soils such as in the case of Priorat and Chateauneuf-du-Pape wines can produce highly concentrated wines capable of aging over many decades. Produced as single varietal wine grenache is able to produce wines which are rich, spicy, with plenty of berry flavours and smooth palate.

Because of its relatively late ripening grenache is ideally suited to being grown in hot, windy areas, its only ‘disadvantage’ is its predilection to set relatively little fruit, but that means all the more flavour in the grapes that remain to produce concentrated wines.

Grenache’s versatility provides winemakers with all sorts of possibilities from light rose wines to full bodied red ones and all types in between depending on the growing conditions. Grenache based rose is one of southern France’s signatures and most popular wine styles. The variety is common in Cotes de Provence wines often blended with cinsaut and mourvedre.

In Spain, garnacha is the second most planted red grape variety, exceeded only by its modern blending partner, tempranillo. It is grown in almost every wine region of Spain, but most notably in the north and east part of the country and it is the key grape variety in the prestigious wines of Priorat.

Grenache in Indonesia

As in the case of many other grape varieties grenache wines are not difficult to find in the Indonesian market, and for this edition of FRV we tasted three of the most popular wines available in the archipelago made from this type of grape.

PRODIGAL GRENACHE-Kilikanoon Prodigal Grenache 2009, Clare valley Australia.

This medium/ full bodied, rich and delicious wine is made 100% from the grenache grape variety. It is silky smooth with ripe flavours of cherries and blackberry with some cocoa richness too. It has been aged in French oak, which gives it lovely complex flavours of sweet spice and dark chocolate. I would recommend this wine to anybody interested in discovering what this grape is all about.

COTES DU RHONE PARALLELE 45 ROSE 2013Paul Jaboulet Parallele 45 Rouge 2013, Grenache – Syrah, France.

The name originates from the 45 north parallel, which runs two kilometres from the domaine’s cellars near Tain L’Hermitage. This northern style Cotes du Rhône has a beautiful fresh syrah character, which is added to the blend with notes of wild berries, white pepper, lavender and cherries. This balanced red finishes with juicy grenache fruitiness.

COTES DU RHONE PARA#2091A44Paul Jaboulet Parallele 45 Rose 2014

Made from a blend of 50% grenache, 40% cinsault and 10% syrah, this rose has some serious weight on the palate with clear aromas and flavours of pink grapefruit, raspberry, orange and pomegranate. Round and fresh in the mouth this wine might be your perfect companion as aperitif and many types of light foods.

If you are looking for rich, delicious fruitiness with a silky and soft structured wine, a bottle of grenache, especially the red ones made from 100% of this grape, might be exactly what you are looking for. I have tasted a few and so far I have enjoyed most of them, so I will continue my search for more.

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