The search for unique, exclusive wines and sometimes the need to adapt old vineyards to new production systems has led to a trend in the winemaking industry of protecting, pampering or recovering ancestral vines established over the decades and sometimes centuries. In this regard, expert enologists and winemakers, who are very enthusiastic about this rebirth, have brought old Garnacha/Grenache vineyards back to life in northwestern Spain and southern France. Their efforts have resulted in excellent, high-quality European wines.
Known as Garnacha in Spain and Grenache in southern France, this versatile grape, once called “tinta de Aragón,” [red grape of Aragon] had a hard time surviving phylloxera, an insect in the aphid family that causes damage to the roots, preventing sap from circulating until it kills the plant. This insect wreaked havoc on vineyards across Europe at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries.
Because of this, and because Grenache was not a favorite at the time (it was hardly known or worked well due to the lack of means and methods that existed), very few old vines of this variety remained, except in Roussillon, where Grenaches were predominant in the production of Vins Doux Naturels. In recent years, the old Grenache vines have become very valuable due to their enormous winemaking potential. They are prized for their rich, concentrated expression, and because with new production methods they yield excellent wines of consistent quality.
Today, these old Garnacha/Grenache vineyards are farmed naturally and organically, with vines that are 50-100 years old on average, and at different altitudes in exceptional surroundings. Viticulturists from the five Designations of Origin (DO) that primarily cultivate Garnacha in Spain (Calatayud, Campo de Borja, Cariñena, Somontano, and Tierra Alta) and the 14 in the French Roussillon region are reclaiming the history of this variety and producing wines with a strong sense of place.