What is Grenache?
Grenache, or Garnacha, is a medium-bodied, sun-loving grape and one of the most widely grown grape varietals worldwide, though few plantings exist in New Zealand. Aragon in northern Spain is believed to be where Grenache originated, and it spread from there to Southern France.
It is thin-skinned and ripens late, so needs hot, dry conditions like those found in its homeland. It also grows well in the South of France, the Italian Isle of Sardinia, California and Australia.
Grenache is sometimes referred to as a ‘warm climate Pinot Noir’. Grown in cool climates, it can disappoint. But grown in the world’s hottest regions, it results in immensely soft, rich wines.
It’s a wine that can be slightly deceptive, as it is often not as dark in colour as other reds like Shiraz or Cabernet, but it can still be rich in flavour.
Grenache is used as a blending component, adding body and sweet fruitiness, and often gets blended with Shiraz or Mourvedre (Mataro). The world’s most famous Grenache-dominant wine is Chateauneuf-du-Pape AOC of the Rhône.
The palate of a typical Grenache wine is fruit-driven, often very plush and shows sweet red berries, spice and wild raspberry notes.
Grenache aromas include red plum, raspberry, cherry, spice and fragrant white pepper. In aged examples meaty or gamey notes can also appear.
The ripe, spicy, cherry and raspberry-scented characters of Grenache have led it to being used in fortified wines, such as port or tawny.
Pairing with Food
Grenache pairs perfectly with grilled, stewed and braised meats like beef, pork and chicken.
It also works well with meaty fish like grilled tuna or kingfish steak, and game such as duck or goose (or even the Christmas turkey).
For many, it is best enjoyed with slow-roast lamb or any barbecue meat, complete with a Grenache-made sauce. It’s also a good match with Asian dishes that are less spicy.
Grenache is a beautiful wine to enjoy with cheese, and the ideal pairings lean toward softer, washed-rind varieties. Less crumbly feta goes well with a Grenache, as does most creamy cheese. Fresh goat’s milk cheese will work together with the red fruits present in Grenache.
Notable regions for Grenache wines
New Zealand - Grenache is one of the world’s most widely planted red varieties, but because it's a hot climate grape, plantings are exceptionally rare in New Zealand. Hawke’s Bay, notably Gimblett Gravels, is the exception.
Australia- The grape varietal was first planted in The Hunter Valley by James Busby, but South Australia is where it has thrived. Due to the warm-to-hot climates and some of the world’s oldest surviving vines, the best Australian Grenache is grown in McLaren Vale and the Barossa Valley. Grenache from the McLaren Vale is characterized by luscious richness and spicy notes while Barossa Valley Grenache is characterized by jammy, intense fruitiness.
Grenache is often blended with Shiraz and Mouvedre to produce GSM wines, which are increasingly popular amongst Australian red wine drinkers.
Spain - Grenache, or Garnacha as it is known in Spain, is widely planted in north-eastern and central Spain, and was long considered a ‘workhorse’ grape of low quality suitable only for blending. Success in the late 20th century has seen it established as a single varietal wine as well as a blending varietal.
France - Grenache is most widely associated with the wines of the Rhone and southern France.
International: Italy, South Africa, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay.