Grenache, Garnacha, Alicante…

One of the most widely planted grapes in the whole world, Grenache in turn goes by a number of names: Grenache Noir, Garnacha tinto, Garnatxa negre, Alicante, Carignane rosso, Navarra, Redondal, Roussillon…the actual list spans around 55+ known regional names.

 

Ripe Grenache grapes ready to harvest, South France

 

Due to it’s need for warm, dry climates to ripen properly, it is believed it may have originated in Spain.

Generally the varietal is known for its high alcohol content and spice and berry flavors.  Globally the grape is best known in its (close to) 100% formats within Spain (labeled as Garnacha), and Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Gigondas (labeled under the region, but dominated by, if not wholly, Grenache).  The real prize with Grenache is its leather and tar flavors that develop with aging, in addition to a definitive white pepper note.

Grenache also holds a higher sugar level which has led to its use in the fortified wines, most notably Banyuls from the south of France.

Mutations of the grape are also of note, mainly southern France’s Grenache blanc (a permitted grape in Châteauneuf-du-Pape blends), and Grenache gris which is used to make rosé wines.

 

Grenache blanc grapes
Grenache gris cluster

 

The foothold for Grenache in the California wine history took place in the San Joaquin Valley where it was well suited to the warm, dry, drought-prone climate.  In the early days its high yield and high alcohol made a great backbone for jug wines.  The early days in California also saw its use in sweet wines not all too dissimilar to White Zinfandel.  Thankfully (post-prohibition) new clippings were brought over and planted in the cooler Central Coast region by the ‘Rhone Rangers’ movement.

For a great introduction of the Spanish stylings of this wine, look no further than our $12/bottle Lot 623, 2015, I.G.P. Valdejalon, Spain.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *