What is 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 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 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 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.

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.

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 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 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.

Learn About These Other Wine Grape Varieties

Chardonnay
Chenin Blanc
Cabernet Sauvignon
Grenache
Malbec
Marsanne
Nebbiolo
Petit Verdot
Pinot Grigio
Pinot Meunier
Riesling
Tannat
Teroldego

Written By Greig Santos-Buch

Greig Santos-Buch is a Co-Founder at Winetraveler.com and a WSET 2 Merit wine writer. He works with several brands focusing on experiential and immersive-style travel. In his spare time, you can find him hiking with a bottle of Cabernet Franc in his backpack or scuba diving trying to talk a reef shark into trying Swiss wine.


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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

Body Medium

Sugar Dry

Tannins Medium

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!

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