What is Grenache Wine?
Last Updated on November 14, 2023.
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 was thought to have originated in Spain, where it’s called ‘Garnacha’ and thrives due to its tolerance to hot and arid climates.
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However, 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.
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, 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 winemakers 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 flavor attributes, some vintners note that it’s within aged Grenache and Garnacha that you may find the most heart in this variety.
It is important to note that depending on the region Grenache is grown and how it is aged, it can vary in flavor, backbone, and intensity. Classic fruit notes include plum, bright strawberry, black cherry, and currant, with white and black pepper, Asian spice, cocoa, mint, black tea, and a granite-shale minerality. When it’s fuller in body, the deeper fruit notes are more pronounced but when it’s lighter, expect more of those high-toned notes like strawberry and currant.
Grenache is very versatile and food friendly. Pork, duck, Mexican dishes, Indian dishes, lamb meatballs, swordfish tacos, and flank steak all work well. 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.
For vegetarian dishes, anything from frittata to paella can work if the seasoning is up to task.
Currently, Grenache is grown vastly throughout the Rhone region of France and Central to Northeastern Spain – West of Catalonia. 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 elevated alcohol content. Sometimes over 17%!
Rhône and Catalonia 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.
Bigger, bolder versions of Grenache are very age-worthy, depending on how they’re crafted. Grenache-based Rhône blends can age for years, as can higher-end Garnacha from Spain. Cannonaus are often meant to be drunk young but they do have the heft to fare well over time.
- Alto Moncayo, Veraton, Campor de Borja, Spain
- Espectacle, Montsant, Spain
- Chateau de Saint Cosme, Little James Basket Press, France
- Le Paradou, France
- A Tribute to Grace, Besson Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains, California
- An Approach to Relaxation, Sucette, Barossa Valley, Australia
Learn About These Other Wine Grape Varieties
Written By Jamie Metzgar
Jamie Elizabeth Metzgar began her career in wine by pouring in a tasting room on the East End of Long Island, NY. After moving to New York City, she landed a position at Chambers Street Wines where she was encouraged to pursue wine education at the Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET). She earned Level III certification there and has since earned California Wine Appellation Specialist and Certified Specialist of Wine certifications as well. After way too many moves, she has recently landed in Northern California where she is compiling an unofficial roster of dog-friendly tasting rooms.
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Black, Blue & Red (Plum, Strawberry, Black Cherry, Black Currant)
Earth & Mineral Notes
White Pepper, Black Pepper, Asian Spice
Structure & Body
Acid Medium, Medium-Minus
Alcohol High (14.5%-16.5% ABV)
Finish Smooth, Fruit Forward, Medium
Pork, Duck, Mexican Dishes, Indian Dishes, Lamb Meatballs, Swordfish Tacos, Flank Steak
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!