This weekend, get your groove on with City Vino, as we share wines made from the grape Grenache. The grape is known as Grenache, or Grenache Noir, in France; Garnacha, or Garnatxa in Spain; and Cannonau, in Italy. The grape is most notably found in the Southern Rhône Valley and Roussillon, in France; Priorat, Rioja, and Calatayud in Spain; Sardinia, Sicily, and Calabria in Italy; and California and Washington State, in the United States.
Grenache tends to be lighter-colored, is often semi-translucent, and tends to oxidize easily, so it often appears with the color of brick around the edges. Wines made from Grenache often have flavors of fruit roll-up and cinnamon, which can give blind tasters a tell on what the wine may be, when paired with the color. Common flavors and aromas include strawberry, black cherry, and raspberry. Grenache can exhibit flavors of orange rind, pink grapefruit, and even notes of dried oregano, anise, or tobacco, depending on the region where it is grown. With age, the wines tend to show characteristics of leather and tar.
Tannins in Grenache based wines are usually medium, as is the acidity. The alcohol levels in these wines ranges from 13.5 to 16 percent, so this grape can get quite ripe, yielding fairly high alcohol levels. Winemakers will often blend other grapes in with Grenache, in order to boost color, tannins, and acidity. Grapes often blended with Grenache include Syrah, Carignan, Cinsault, Mourvèdre, and Tempranillo.
Some of the most famous wines made from blends that include Grenache are what are known as “GSM” blends. GSM means Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre, and these blends are made in France, the United States, and Australia. Grenache is the dominant grape in wines made in the Southern Rhône Valley, and most notably it is often over 80 percent of the grapes used in the infamous red blends from Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The wine, Cannonau di Sardegna, from Sardinia, in Italy, is required by law to be at least 90 percent Grenache (Cannonau). DOQ Priorat is premia region for Grenache in Spain, also known as Garnatxa.
Grenache is often used in making rosé, especially in the Tavel AOC in the Southern Rhône Valley, Provence, and Roussillon in France; and Navarra, in Spain. If you are interested in exploring, try Domaine Corne-Loup Tavel AOC France 2019. Also, Grenache, due to its ability to produce high sugar levels as it ripens, is used to make fortified dessert wines, called vin doux naturel, in France. The wines are from Rasteau, Maury, and Banyuls, in France.
Red wines made from Grenache are great pairings for dishes like braised meats and stews, roasted vegetables, lamb dishes, and duck breast. Both the red and rosé Grenache pairs beautifully with barbequed meats and with cheeses like cheddar, so give it a try with macaroni and cheese. The fortified Grenaches definitely would be great accompanying chocolate, grilled figs, or blue cheese.