aka Cannonau (Ital.), Garnacha Negro (Esp.), etc…


Grenache or Garnacha (Esp.) is said to most likely have originated in the region of Aragon in northern Spain.  From there plantings were probably spread to Catalonia and other lands under the rule of the Crown of Aragon.  The regions of Sardinia and Rousillon in southern France are thought to have received the grape in this way due to the region being under the Crown.

Grenache was introduced in Australia some time during the 18th century.  Once planted, it quickly became the most widely planted red wine grape in the country.  In the 1960s, Grenache was surpassed by Shiraz.   While the date of arrival in the United States is unclear, during the 19th century, wine growers in California planted the grape extensively.

Places It Is Grown

Spain has more plantings of Grenache than any other country in the world.  The grape is known as Garnacha or Garnacha Tinta and is the dominant red wine grape variety grown in Catalonia and Rioja regions.  Grenache is also widely planted in northeastern and central Spain.

In the past, Grenache was most widely associated with wines from Rhone and southern France.  Today, Grenache can be found in the Languedoc-Roussillon region.  There it is blended with Carignan, Cinsaut, Syrah and Mourvèdre.

In Italy, Grenache (aka Cannonau in Sardinia) is one of the principal grapes grown for the island’s deeply colored, full-bodied red wines.  Elsewhere in Italy, Grenache can also be found in Sicily, Umbria (in Trasimeno lake area) and Calabria.

Grenache has been growing in Israel since the 19th century and at one point in time was a very important in the Algerian wine industry.  Today, on the continent of Africa, Morocco still produces the grape as use in Grenache Roses.  Grenache grapes can also be found growing in Cyprus and scattered among some of the Greek islands.

As stated above, Grenache was Australia’s most widely planted red wine grape variety until the 1990s.  Most prominent in the Riverland region, Grenache was a vital component in the fortified “port-style” wines.

Overall, Grenache’s ability to take hold in the New World has been limited.  Small movements have brought more attention to the grape and reports of more plantings arise every year.  To date Mexico, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and South Africa all boast some acreage devoted to growing Grenache.

In the United States, California, Washington state and Oregon all plant the variety.  In California, the grape was extensively planted throughout the hot San Joaquin Valley where it was mainly used as a blending component for pale, sweet jug wines.  Despite a relatively long history in Washington the grape has always been a minor player in that state’s wine industry.

Properties Of Grape

Grenache is a red wine grape and is one of the most widely planted red wine grape varieties in the world.  The grape clusters are usually compact and well-filled.  The skin of the Grenache grape is thin and only lightly pigmented.

The vine is sturdy and praised for its vigor and upright growth.  It has good wind resistance and has proven to be very well suited for dry, warm and windy climates.   Because of its vine vigor, it can survive arid and drought conditions.  However, its drought resistance has been found to be dependent upon the type of rootstock it is planted on.  Regardless of the rootstock, Grenache seems to respond well when presented with some degrees of water stress.

While very much a positive attribute, the strong wood canopy of Grenache poses difficulty when harvesting with mechanical equipment.  Pruning, utilized to help decrease yield and increase quality, is also more labor intensive.

The Grenache vine is an abundant producer of fruit.  For better quality wines it is recommended that a vineyard keep their production below 2 tons/acre.  However, Grenache consistently produces anywhere from 8-16 tons/acre.

Grenache is able to adapt to most vineyard soil types but grows best in hot, dry soils that are well irrigated.  In southern France, Grenache grows well on schist (good retainer of water) and granite soils and has also taken off in stony soil (stones help to retain heat).   On vineyards with an overabundance of irrigation, the resulting wines tend be pale in color with more diluted flavors and excessive alcohol.

The vine buds early but the Grenache grape itself tends to ripen late.  This means that the grape requires a long, warm growing season.  Grenache is most often one of the last grapes to be harvested.  A long ripening process allows sugars in the grape to reach higher levels which results in higher alcohol content.  It is not uncommon to find alcohol content near 15% with Grenache varietals. 

The large clusters and early budding do pose problems.  The large clusters are prone to mildew and rot because they are so well-packed.  Cool and damp conditions can cause “deadarm” disease.  Grenache is also susceptible to shatter or coulure because of the thin skin of the grape.

Overall, Grenache is relatively low in both pigment and malic acid.  It also oxidizes easily.  While some 100% varietal wines are produced, Grenache is mostly used to help fill out red wine blends and other varietals such as Syrah, Carignan and Cinsaut..  It was also “secretly” blended with the Pinot Noir grape as well.  

As a varietal, Grenache can make fleshy, heady wines with lots of fruit appeal in their youth.  They are best if consumed early as they tend to not age well in the bottle.  Grenache varietals generally carry spicy, berry-flavored notes, are soft on the palate and have a relatively high alcohol content.  It does tend to lack color, acidity and tannins.  In order to make up for its lack of tannins, acidity and color, some winemakers use excessively harsh pressing and hot fermentation with stems to help extract the maximum amount of color and phenols from the skins.

Partnering With Food

Rule #1: Matching the alcohol level and body of the wine to the heaviness of the food should make for a proper pairing every time.

Grenache is generally high in alcohol content but low in tannins and acidity.  Because of these characteristics a variety of food will match well with Grenache varietals.  In some cases a very rich dish will pair well and in others a more medium type of dish will pair well.  Be sure to consult your wine seller regarding the wine making techniques and the resulting body of the wine.

Below are a list of foods and dishes that should pair well with the different types of wine made from Grenache:

  • BBQ Chicken Wings
  • Prosciutto wrapped Scallops
  • Pasta with Mild Italian Sausage and Sauce
  • Mild Cheddar, Fontina, Gouda, Jarlsberg & Swiss cheeses
  • Cheese and tomato Fritatta
  • Leek and onion or vegetable quiche
  • Cheese or spinach souffle’
  • New England Clam Chowder
  • French Onion
  • Gazpacho
  • Minestrone
  • Mushroom Soup
  • Calamari in tomato sauce
  • Grilled halibut or monkfish
  • Mahi mahi, red snapper, salmon, swordfish or tuna,
  • Seafood bruchette
  • Seafood paella

Restaurants With These Types of Dishes

To view restaurants that serve appetizers, entrees and other dishes that partner well with this grape type, click here….

About americanwinegrape

American Wine Grape Distributors Inc. AKA A. Silvestro Wine Grape, has been in business for over 5 decades. We are wine enthusiasts just like you and want to share in that enjoyment. This is why we are developing a new and exciting platform for growers, restaurants, sommeliers and home winemakers. Our goal is to bring the wine community together and is the driving force behind our new blog.

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