From rich reds to peachy whites and roses, Grenache delivers vibrant wines from across Europe and the southern hemisphere, says Carol Brown.
The Grenache grape (sometimes known as Grenache Noir) has started to gain attention over recent years and deservingly so.
It’s a Mediterranean variety, one that likes the sun and gets really ripe which can lead to some heady alcohol levels but in all the wines that I mention below, you really don’t notice it as there is so much else going on.
Grenache is the mainstay of Southern Rhone blends in appellations such as Cotes du Rhone, Gigondas and Chateauneuf du Pape and is behind those red berry, raspberry and white pepper notes you find.
It works so well when blended with dark berry scented grapes such as Syrah, Cinsault and Mourvedre. Needless to say, it is also very at home in the south of France from Roussillon to the Languedoc and as a key player in the delicious dry roses of Provence.
Also known as Garnacha
Over the Pyrenees and into Spain, it is known as Garnacha where it is the second most widely planted grape after Tempranillo.
In Spain, it continues being a good grape for rose wines particularly in the DO of Navarra where some very good reds from old bush vines are also being produced. Priorat DOCa in Catalonia also produces concentrated old bush vine red Garnacha.
Grenache was one of the first grapes to be introduced into Australia, by Scot, James Busby with cuttings from Roussillon. The Barossa Valley and the McLaren Vale were some of the first sites planted and there are old bush vines dating back to the 1850s which are still in production.
Originally considered a workhorse grape and used for fortified wines and blends in Australia, the focus on terroir expression and techniques such as earlier picking and retrained use of oak are now giving vibrant and defined wines.
If you visit Sardinia, look for Cannonau on the label, the local name for Grenache.
Grenache Blanc and Grenache Gris are thought to be mutations of Grenache Noir. The skin of Grenache Gris has a pinkish hue and both varieties make expressive, textured mid-weight white wines.
They can take the heat and are often found in similar areas to the Grenache Noir. Look for DOs in north East Spain such as Allea and Terra Alta for their Garnacha Blanca. Both react well to barrel fermentation and ageing.
Domaine Maby ‘La Fermande’ 2020, Lirac AOC, France, Thewinesociety.com £11.95.
Mainly Grenache Blanc with a little Clairette and a touch of uplifting Picpoul, this is a honeysuckle scented glassful with ripe citrus and peach.
Dry and fresh and floral, there is an apple and pear crunch too. It’s well balanced with a long finish.
Domaine Maby also make a great grenache based dry rose wines in the neighbouring rose-only appellation of Tavel.
Coume Marie ‘Le Preceptoire’ 2020, Cotes Du Roussillon Blanc AOC, France, Thewinesociety.com £13.95.
This is a blend of Grenache Blanc and Grenache Gris, it’s rare to find Grenache Gris as a single varietal.
Scented with peaches and pears and honeysuckle and spice, there is a lovely texture to this with fleshy peach notes. It’s dry and well balanced.
Muga Rosado Rioja DOCa, Spain 2020, Thewinesociety.com £8.25, Majestic £10.99.
It would be remiss of me if I didn’t mention a rosado/rose and I do think we tend to reach straight for a red Rioja where generally Garnacha plays a small part in the blend.
This rosado is mainly Garnacha with a little of the white Viura grape.
It’s pale in a Provence way with scents of red currants and squishy strawberries and finishes dry and fruity, pass the tapas please!
Journey’s End ‘Wild Child’ Grenache Rose 2020, Coastal Region WO, South Africa, drinkworthy.co.uk £11.
South Africa also produces good white, rose and red Grenache.
Wild Child is strawberry-scented with peach and pear hints. A textured dry rose with tangy red berries and orchard fruits and a long finish.
Whistler ‘Get in My Belly’ Grenache 2020, Barossa Valley, Australia, Thewinesociety.com £19.50.
Vibrant, fresh and forward red berry aromas lead to blueberries and crunchy raspberries.
This is complex, juicy and well balanced with an appealing mid weight style.
Willunga 100, Grenache, McLaren Vale, Australia
I tried the 2020 vintage of this at the recent Liberty Wines tasting with its good red berries and a structure to the tannins.
Wine Raks (Aberdeen) currently list the 2016 vintage (£12.95) and that proved to be one of the faves at a recent Aberdeen Wine Appreciators’ tasting.
Softer and showing some maturity with its figgy notes, the red berries are still very much in focus.
It’s a fuller, richer style of Grenache in comparison to the Whistler Grenache and really shows the versatility of the variety.
Chapoutier Cotes Du Rhone Villages 2020, France, Tesco £9.
A blend of Grenache and Syrah, there’s a perfumed summer pudding-like blast of berries on the sniff with crunchy, juicy berry, liquorice and spice flavours.
Medium bodied in style, the tannins are soft and ripe.