Looking for a wine adventure? Let me introduce you to one grape who offers multiple types of personalities.
She’s crisp and cool, as well as dry and full. She’s Spanish, French, Italian, old and young, and: last but not least, versatile, beautiful and surprising. Getting excited yet?
In Spain, her name is Garnacha, in France she’s known as Grenache, and in Italy, she’s known as Cannonau. A Mediterranean grape offering you gorgeous whites, luscious reds, and intense and delicious rosé wines, there are even sparkling wines and Vin de Natural fortified wines made from this grape as well! Her skin can be three different colours – Blanc, Gris and Noir. Similar to the Pinot family, she’s a trifecta of awesome. Many experts agree that Garnacha /Grenache conveys a true expression of terroir – a reflection of the soil, landscape and climate like no other wine. With these things in mind, Garnacha/Grenache can be considered one of the most versatile and diverse varieties in the world! All of this excitement had me dying to learn more. So I went to Spain and France to research and figure it all out.
If you’ve ever sipped a rosado from Eastern Spain or Rosé from the South of France, odds are it was made from Garnacha. Perhaps it might not have been written on the label, but that’s the grape that reigns from Aragon and Roussillon. Complex and structured these wines deliver beautiful, aromatic and well-balanced wines. As one of the most wildly planted grapes in the world, it needs to be more understood and appreciated for its history and quality.
A late-ripening grape, Garnacha/Grenache is ideally adapted to the climate of hot and windy Mediterranean valleys. The grapes need hot, dry conditions, poor soils. Most vines are grown in what is known as “bush vines” or “wild vines”: these vines are not trained upwards, but rather their wild bush nature is embraced and highly regarded. The vine has a strong wood canopy and the upright “wild” growth helps it resist the northerly winds in the valleys in which it resides. Garnacha’s long and deep roots are well suited to water stress and as you can imagine, grapes, like human beings, produce more complex wines when they struggle. Many of the wild bush vines can range in age. With some close to or over 100 years old, (an “old vine” is considered “old” after 30 years of age) the theory goes that the older the vines, the more concentrated the flavours and aromas.
On a label of red wine, you’ll see the words “Viñas Viejas” or “Vieilles Vignes“ which translates to “old vines”. This is secret code for, “buy the bottle it’s freaking delicious!” (tip: buy more to put in your cellar for ageing – you won’t regret it!). Younger vines are used for Rosé wines and sometimes whites. If you come across a bottle of white made from old vines, the wine will more than likely have more texture and weight on the palate (due to ageing in older oak barrels). If you’re a true wine lover, you’re going to love and appreciate this style of wines.
This Mediterranean grape can pair a whole meal. Try the rosé as an aperitif, then move onto a white with your starter and decant a red with the main course. For after-dinner, try a fortified red or fortified white for dessert and/or cheese.
Getting into Garnacha/Grenache is a deep dive. You’re going to have to read the labels, maybe do some research online, and be more aware of the Spanish and South of France wines you’re buying. She’s a little mysterious and shy, but once you understand her style, you’ll recognize her right away.
Looking for a few to try? Here are some below for you to add to your shopping list!
1. Clos Dalian Garnacha Blanca 2017 $15.60
2. La Fage Miraflors Rose Cotes Du Roussillon AOC $17.60
3. Monasterio De Las Vinas Crianza Carinena 1,500L $19.95
4. Domaine Lafage Cuvée Nicolas Vieilles Vignes Grenache Noir 2017 Vintages $19.95
5. Clos Dalian Garnacha Crianza 2015 $15.60
6. Gabarda Selección 2015 $16.95
7. Beso De Vino Seleccion, Carinena DO $9.95