The versatility of the European Garnacha/Grenache is another of the strengths of this quality grape. This is because there are different Garnacha grape varieties. The most surprising thing is the diversity of the wines they can produce and their different characteristics (color, flavor and aroma) that appear depending on these grape varieties, on their place of cultivation (terroir), on the way of vinification and ageing.
Garnacha/Grenache is a great chameleon and comes in different varieties: red, white, and grey (as well as a red and hairy vine, so called this because of its “hairy” leaves). It also comes in many forms: red, rosé and white dry wines, sparkling wines, natural sweet and fortified sweet wines. Consequently, there are different styles of European Grenache from the northeastern regions of Spain and the south of France, where the grape originates.
For example, sparkling Garnacha is making its way into the Spanish appellation of Cava. These regions have continental climates and high-altitude vineyards that preserve acidity and deliver white cherry, floral and herbal flavors. Sparkling Grenache can be dry or sweet, young or long aged, and always very fresh.
The higher altitudes, mineral soils, and maritime influence favor a white wine style of white and grey Garnacha, light-bodied and crisp. The PDO Cariñena and Campo de Borja excel in these wines, as do the Spanish regions of PDO Calatayud, Somontano and Terra Alta, and the French PDOs of Collioure, Côtes du Roussillon, and PGI of Côtes Catalanes and de la Côte Vermeille. In those cases, they are elegant and fine and can have apple, peach, quince, lemon, and saline elements.
Full-bodied whites can also be found in these regions, with the warmer Mediterranean climates of PDO Terra Alta and PDO Collioure, Côtes du Roussillon in Roussillon bringing a little more body to the Grenache (PDO Terra Alta is home to around 30% of the world’s Garnacha Blanc plantings). These round whites can offer flavors of citrus oil, honey, redcurrant and melon, along with a bouquet of floral aromas.
Dry rosé is relevant in the Mediterranean, and Garnacha/Grenache appears throughout northeastern Spain and in the GIs of Roussillon in a variety of styles. The slate vineyards of the PDO Calatayud and its ample sunshine can favor the more robust, mineral and black-fruited versions, while the wine from the PDO Cariñena is more floral and herbaceous. Strawberry, watermelon, rhubarb and rose are the hallmarks of these refreshing and lively European Grenaches. Very versatile for pairing with a strawberry salad or a shrimp cocktail. The rosés wines from Roussillon, southern of France, from AOP Collioure and Côtes du Roussillon, IGP Côte Catalane and de la Côte Vermeille, are also in the same line with a good freshness and juiciness of orange and grapefruit.
Elegant and characterful, the light-bodied red Garnacha could accompany fish, poultry, and vegetarian dishes. With aromas of strawberry, raspberry, cherry and pepper, these wines are found in the north-east of Spain and the south of France in particular, where in the best conditions, cool nights and regular breezes balance ripeness and acidity.
The Campo de Borja and Cariñena appellations offer very good expressions, as do the more prominent communes of the Côtes du Roussillon Villages appellations: Caramany, Latour de France, Lesquerde, Tautavel and les Aspres, offering among others a range of lighter style Grenaches, many made with carbonic maceration and minimal use of the oak containers to preserve fresh fruit flavors.
Full-bodied red Garnacha remains a specialty of this corner of the wine world, as poor soils, dry conditions, old vines with deep roots and low yields concentrate the flavors and tannins of the grapes, resulting in robust, structured wines with deep flavors of blackberry, blackcurrant, allspice and tobacco. In the Roussillon PGIs, winegrowers cultivate grey and black schist vineyards to make the rich Grenache wines of the PDO Collioure and Maury Sec, while the Somontano and Calatayud PDOs in Spain produce bold Garnacha with ripe fruit and a mineral background.
The Roussillon Geographical Indication has long been considered one of Europe’s most prized regions for dessert wines and is home to the fortified Vins Doux Naturels (VDN) of PDO Maury, PDO Banyuls, PDO Banyuls Grand Cru and PDO Rivesaltes. Those appellations give the opportunity to taste the purity of the full family of Grenaches variety, either in very fresh style, for all the colors, or in delicate, rich and complex oxidized styles.