Grenache is a grape variety and wine that is unfamiliar to many people. Yet it is a prime player in some of the tastiest reds and rose’ around. It’s also one of the most widely planted grapes in the world and it thrives in hot and dry environments. This means that it is one of the staple grapes in Spain (where it is called Garnacha), the southern Rhone, south of France, Australia and that lovely island off the coast of Italy, Sardinia, where it is called Cannonau. Cannonau di Sardegna is actually required to be at least 85% Grenache. Mostly Grenache is used to blend with other grapes to add punch and color to them since it is typically higher in alcohol yet lower in acidity than many other grapes of those regions. But there are several very popular, affordable and tasty wines that are mostly, if not all, Grenache. So what’s in a sip?
Usually young Grenache wines have flavors of red fruits like raspberry and strawberry – not unlike Pinot Noir, but with an underlay that is spicier, less earthy and lacking the acidity and tannin that give Pinot its character and longevity. I like to describe Grenache wines as ‘juicy’ due to their fruitiness and soft drinkability. These are not aggressive wines but plain fun to drink and at prices that make them terrific every day choices and great for parties. Keep that in mind for the upcoming holiday season. I’ll point some our below to help you shop.
While Grenache makes fine wines all on its own, the main job of Grenache is to be a key player in the blend of wines like Chateauneuf du Pape, Cotes du Rhone, the wines of the Languedoc – Roussillon, Provencal reds and Australian GSM blends. The GSM stands for Grenache-Syrah-Mouvedre and it is a pretty standard blending inherited from the French who also use Cinsault and Carignan.
And then there is Spain. Spain claims the origin of Grenache (Garnacha) and the most prominent use is in the the Priorate and Montsant regions of Catalonia southwest of Barcelona, and in the Rioja and Navarra blended with Tempranillo.
Now all this may seem a bit confusing – but that’s why I’m here! No, not to confuse, but to offer a bit of a roadmap to sipping all kinds of wine. And one thing that is clearly not confusing about Grenache is that it is largely the favored grape for the best (in my opinion) rose’ made – those from the south of France and the Rosado of Spain.
Let’s get to sipping! Here is a list of some of the Grenache based wines I like and I think you’ll see just how much they can fit into a wide variety of every day sipping, group get togethers and special occasions.
2013 Las Rocas Garnacha $10. Easy crowd pleaser
2014 Bodegas Borsao Garnacha $8. Parker description: exuberant
2014 Evodia Old Vines Garnacha $8. I buy this all the time and just watched the Cubs win the pennant while sipping it with friends and enjoying Chicago-style Italian beef. Doesn’t get much better than that!
2013 Domaine Lafage Cuvee Nicolas $14. 100% old vine Grenache from France.
Sella & Mosca Cannonau di Sardegna Riserva 2011 $15. A bit more depth and texture due to 95% Grenache.
2014 Les Vignes Bila Haut Rouge M Chapoutier $14. Great blend of Grenache, Syrah and Carignan from the south of France from one of the best Rhone producers.
2013 Yalumba The Strapper Grenache Syrah Mourvedre $18. A mouthful from South Australia.
2014 Alvaro Palacios Terrasses $40. One of my personal favorite wines. Juicy, versatile and lush.