Wine

Your Complete Guide to Grenache Wines

08/03/2022
Harvested red grenache grapes

Grenache wine is a red grape wine variety that promises to give you a great wine experience. It is known for being deceptively sweet, as it exudes an almost fruity yet earthy taste but kicks a punch for its relatively high alcohol content of approximately 15% alcohol by volume (ABV). Often dubbed as the ‘warm climate pinot,’ Grenache wines make for the perfect wine for warm summers.

Grenache is a spicy, earthy grape with a strong flavour profile. It is usually enjoyed as a blend, but due to its high sugar levels, it has also become a popular grape for rosé production. While it is not as popular as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir, Grenache is more widely grown and common than you think. It pairs well with many wines but can also be enjoyed solo. This rich and satisfying wine is sure to leave you wanting more. Here, we give you the lowdown on everything you need to know about this intoxicating drink.

What is Grenache wine?

Grenache is a strong, often free-standing, bush vine grown in hot and dry environments. Grenache grapes often ripen late, so they are often grown in warm and arid climates, such as California and South Australia. Grenache and Grenache-based wines are considered versatile both in the vineyard and winery, making Grenache wines one of the most widely distributed wines in the world.

Grenache wines can be enjoyed young and are available from dry to sweet and light-bodied. However, it can easily become a complex and full-bodied wine through clever winemaking practices from the fruit of old vines. Grenache is often enjoyed as part of a blend, as it lacks acid, tannin and colour, but it can also be enjoyed as a tasty solo drink. Lately, it is being popularised as a table wine drink in some regions.

Grenache Origins

Grenache is originally a Spanish wine, which is why it is also known alternatively as Spanish Garnacha. Specifically, it is known to have been cultivated in Northern Spain. From there, it has crawled its way towards France. Now, it is widely grown throughout different wine regions with warmer climates across the world, namely Spain, France, Italy, Australia and the United States.

Grenache grapes can be found in almost every area of Spain, but mostly in northern and eastern parts. The Priorat area produces powerful, spicy blends occasionally aged with new oak. Rioja and Navarra, on the other hand, produce Grenache wines that are light in colour. It is often used to soften Tempranillo grape in the region.

In France, it is mainly found in the Southern Rhône Valley. Wines from this region are commonly labelled with Côtes du Rhône AOC. They are often blended with Syrah, Carignan or Mourvedre, though Côtes du Rhône wines can also be 100% Grenache. Grenache wines can be further found throughout Provence, where Grenache-based rosés are popular. They are also found in Languedoc-Roussillon, where they are produced as a fortified dessert wine called vin doux naturel.

Meanwhile, in the United States, it is mostly found in California where the climate is ideal for the cultivation of Grenache. Producers in the Central Coast of California have been popularising Grenache wines as easy table wines. Lastly, in Australia, it is found in the southern part, specifically near the city centres of Adelaide.

Grenache or Garnacha wine regions

Grenache in Australia

Australian producers are currently seeing an increasing demand for Grenache. Winemakers in the country use the grape variety as base for fortified wines.

Commonly, however, it is used as part of the classic GSM blend, or Grenache, Shiraz and Mourvedre. For example, the 2018 Rolf Binder MVV Barossa Grenache Shiraz Mataro Carignan is a GSM blend with a subtle spiciness brought about by the Carignan. It is originally made by Rolf Binder, with fruits coming from the Marananga and Vine Vale regions. Another alternative is the 2018 Cape Barren Native Goose GSM, which is produced in McLaren Vale. Australia’s warm climate elevates the sweetness and alcohol content of the wines, but many winemakers are using innovative techniques to create a lighter style of wine.

If you wish to try Australian Grenache solo, you may opt for the 2016 Kilikanoon Prodigal Grenache. It has oaky notes with a kick of cherry and blackberry notes, staying true to the Grenache taste.

Top Australian Grenache Regions

Grenache came to Australia in 1832 as part of the James Busby collection. One of Australia’s first plantings, it also became among the most planted varieties in the region by the mid-twentieth century. Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale are the two prominent producers of Grenache wines in Australia, but they can also be found in Clare Valley and Yarra Valley, among others.

Barossa Valley

Located in South Australia 60 km northeast of Adelaide city centre, Barossa Valley is a famous wine-producing region and tourist destination. The region is most well-known for its red wine, particularly Shiraz. It is the source of some of the oldest vines of Shiraz in the world. It also produces other wine varieties, such as Riesling, Semillon, Cabernet Sauvignon and, of course, Grenache.

Here are some Grenache wines to try from Barossa Valley:

  • 2018 Gibson Duke Barossa Grenache Shiraz – This wine has dry, grainy tannins with a kick of savoury spice and mulberry and black cherry notes. It is a medium-bodied wine with soft juicy flavours and refreshing acidity.
  • 2018 Yalumba Samuel’s Collection Barossa Grenache Shiraz Mataro – This is an aromatic wine that pairs perfectly with most dishes. The Grenache is sourced from the Kalimna and Vine Vale subregions of Barossa, which are known for their light soils perfect for cultivating Grenache. As for its flavour, it has the notes of boysenberry, allspice, black pepper, crushed petals and fennel seeds. It also has a hint of juicy fruity flavours, such as plum cake, dark cherry and rhubarb.
  • Artisans of Barossa Lot 8 Grenache 2020 – This wine prides itself to be robust and solid in flavour. It gives off the taste of bakery spices and dried Provencal herbs, dark red cherries, raspberries and earthy tannins. Its strong taste makes it pair well with anything barbecued.
  • 2019 Dandelion Vineyards Menagerie of the Barossa Grenache Shiraz Mataro – Pairing well with beef, pasta, lamb and game, this wine is a GSM blend with an alcohol content of 14.5%. Its taste profile includes oak, vanilla, cedar, plum, black fruit, cherry and red fruit notes. This wine is medium-bodied, smooth and leaves an earthy aftertaste.
  • Rogers and Rufus Grenache Rosé 2020 – This pretty bottle of salmon-coloured wine has an elegant and graceful taste to it. It has 12% alcohol and hints of pear and strawberry hull in its flavour. Its refined and subtle acidity proves that less is truly more for rosés.

McLaren Vale

McLaren Vale, located in the Adelaide metropolitan area, is a wine region in South Australia. Due to its global popularity, it is considered one of the Great Wine Capitals of the World. It primarily produces dry red wines, such as Shiraz, Mourvedre and Grenache, among others. Shiraz accounts for 50% of its total crush, making it the most important harvest in McLaren Vale. Grenache, on the other hand, is harvested in late April and occupies approximately 400 ha of the region.

Below are some of the best Grenache wines to try from McLaren Vale:

  • 2020 Paxton Grenache – Bright red fruits are the prominent flavours in this wine. It offers a perfumed fragrance of fresh strawberries, spice and raspberries. Pair it well with spicy Indian or Asian dishes, and appreciate its light to medium body and the depth and length of its flavour finish.
  • 2020 XO Grenache – The 2020 XO Grenache is sourced from the Aldinga Vineyard, a vineyard with 80-year-old plantings, enabling the fruit to ripen slowly and with good acid retention. It’s also sourced from the McLaren Flat, where it is planted on deep sand and where 25-year-old vines ripen much later, giving the wine a floral lift. Lastly, the red sandy loam of Whites Valley gives it a good structure and fresh mid-palate.
  • 2018 Reynella Grenache – This is a popular choice for red wine lovers. It has beautiful silky tannins with notes of cherries, red liquorice, violets, musk, nutmeg and star anise. It delivers a mid-palate of richly textured flavours and a long finish.
  • 2019 Samuel’s Gorge Grenache – Produced in the sandy soils of Blewitt Springs, this wine has a powerful and complex flavour profile. It has notes of ruby grapefruit, cranberries and dried herbs on the nose. It has a heady and enticing fragrance complemented on the palate with velvety tannins and balanced freshness.
  • 2018 Bekkers McLaren Vale Grenache – If you are feeling a little fancy, try to snag a bottle of 2018 Bekkers McLaren Vale Grenache for a premium experience. It is a powerful yet poised bottle of medium-bodied wine. As for its flavour, it is velvety yet buoyant with notes of spicy red and purple berries, black berry and plum. It boasts fine tannins and an extra-long finish.
Panoramic landscape view of vineyards in Beaujolais, Rhone, France
Vineyards in Beaujolais, Rhone, France

What does Grenache taste like?

Grenache wines often receive oak treatment and make for a great single varietal wine. They are naturally sweet. Upon first sip, it bursts with juicy fruit flavours, such as raspberry, cherry and strawberry. It also has roasted nuts notes, and as yields are increased, it fades into a soft earthiness.

Grenache wines are versatile shapeshifters. When enjoyed young, they are more approachable in taste. The older they get, the more complex the flavours often are. Grenache wines can be light-bodied, but they can also be as full-bodied as Cabernet Sauvignon.

Soft and warm flavours are produced by older Grenache vineyards often found in South Australia. McLaren Vale, for one, produces light-bodied, more aromatic tastes. Lower-lying plateaus produce richer styles. Some vineyards, such as the Tatachilla flats, produce heavier, richer full-bodied styles. Grenache vines can be as old as 50 to 90 years old.

Grenache lacks the acidic, tannic taste, so it makes for a compatible choice to blend with meatier grapes, such as Mourvedre or Syrah. This is why the GSM combination is such a popular blend.

Grenache wine is an explosion of flavours. Aside from raspberries, strawberries, roasted nuts and black cherries, you can expect to find the following characteristic notes in Grenache wines: leather, blackcurrants, honey, gingerbread and black olives. Strawberry and cream notes can be expected from Rosado or rosé Grenaches, while coffee and nutty notes can be expected from Australian port style wines.

Best Food Pairings for Grenache

Because of the versatility of its grapes, it is difficult to come up with a meat dish that Grenache wines clash with. 100% Grenache wines, which are often low in tannin, can be paired with spice-filled Indian food, barbecued food, stuffed peppers and other meals that are rich in spices and flavour. Meanwhile, GSM blends with crisp acidity can go well with roast beef, lamb, duck and other hearty dishes with less spicy styles of cooking.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Grenache a heavy wine?

When mixed with Syrah and Mourvedre, Grenache can easily produce a rich, dark and full-bodied flavour profile. However, Grenache is known for its versatility. When enjoyed alone, it can be light-bodied when opened young, but it can also be as full-bodied as a Cabernet Sauvignon when older.

Is Grenache a dry red wine?

Grenache, a dark-skinned grape variety, is generally considered a dry wine, but it can get quite ripe. When it does, the juicier fruity flavours come out. It is also occasionally used as base for fortified wines and even rosé.

What is Grenache wine similar to?

If you like Grenache, you will most likely also like Merlot. They both have the same fruity flavours, fragrance, plush texture and balanced tannins. Other alternatives to Grenache include the Argentine malbec, Syrah and the Italian ripasso.

What are the characteristics of Grenache wine?

Grenache wines boast candied fruit flavours with a hint of herbal notes. It is bright in colour and medium to full in body. It is aromatic, with fragrances of orange rind, tobacco, plum and raspberry. While there can be a variety of Grenache wines due to its versatility, a common Grenache usually has balanced tannins, medium acidity and generally plush berries.

How do you pronounce Grenache?

Originating from France, the word Grenache is pronounced ‘Gruh-nash.’

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