Scientific origin of Garnacha (a.k.a. Grenache)

European Birthplace

As far as the wine world remembers, Garnacha has been known as a Southern European grape, under the appellatives of Grenache in France, Cannonau in Sardegna and Garnacha or Garnatxa in Spain. It was one of the first varieties to be introduced to Australia in the 18th century and during the 19th, wine growers prized the vine’s ability to produce high yields in California. However, how do Garnacha’s roots specifically lie in?

There is certainly an ongoing debate about the origin of this particular grape.  While some wine experts locate the origin of the variety in Northern Spain, particularly within the Aragon region, others claim it has its origins in Sardegna, being later spread to other Mediterranean lands under the Crown of Aragon rule.

Some wine experts like Karen MacNeil have stated, in the second edition of The Wine Bible that «a strong scientific hypothesis had Grenache originating in Italy, first as a white grape called Vernaccia, and later brought to Spain (where it matured to form a red clone) and from there to France.  MacNeil elaborates, “The Italian connection is not without merit, and however, since DNA typing shows Sardinia’s important grape Cannonau to be Garnacha Tint/Grenache Noir. »

Nevertheless, further testing indicates there is no genetic relationship between Vernaccia and Garnacha. According to Jancis Robinson in The Oxford Companion to Wine and other authors such as Oz Clarke in Encyclopedia of Grapes or Rosemary Radden at Grapes and Wines of the World, Garnacha is an autochthonous variety from Aragon and its surroundings. This hypothesis is primarily explained by two facts: first, it is the only place where we can find the broad range of varieties of Garnacha as a whole (grey, white, red and peluda), and second, recent scientific studies indicate a significant clonal diversity in Spain that is lacking among Cannonau on Sardegna.

This second statement seems to have far greater weight amongst wine experts and the general opinion, who consider there is enough historical evidence about the Aragonese origin of the quintessential Mediterranean grape.

Whatever it is, anyone can deny the versatility of Garnacha, a perfect travel companion who adapts its needs wherever she goes, and an indisputable ambassador of the European quality of wine worldwide.

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