Well, although this very particular grape is not new at all, it’s been getting broader worldwide recognition during the last two decades, with a new generation of Garnacha winemakers in Europe are taking a new approach on the variety. In the recent times, it has also become a trend, and one way for better explain its characteristics to wine drinkers is by looking at an old(er) friend: Pinot Noir.
Like Pinot Noir, Grenache is highly sensitive to soil and winemaking techniques, as well as climate and altitude. Both grapes planted on sandy soils give fresher, lighter wines with more aromas, while red clay ones have longer flavors and more structure. In case of older vines, reds get more intense in flavor.
In the winery, Grenache also requires a lot of attention, Fermentation and maceration are often long, slow and cool; so during the wait, some Garnacha winemakers have borrowed Pinot Noir’s technique of throwing whole clusters of grapes, even stems, into the fermentation tank to add complexity and spiciness to the wine. Additionally, they share skin thins and low yields.
Therefore, we could introduce Garnacha/Grenache the way Bloomberg did: the hot weather cousin of Pinot Noir, due to it tends to prefer hotter, dryer climates with cool nights, and rocky well-drained soils like schist and granite. Another key difference is its capacity to make exquisite fortified and dessert wines, thanks to a late ripening, which makes sweeter wines, such as the Vins Doux Naturels of France’s Roussillon.
Moreover, although Garnacha can –and does fantastically- fly solo; it is often blended with Syrah and Mourvèrdre (better known as GSM blends).
As Christy Canterbury MW recently shared, Garnacha/Grenache is one of two mainstream varieties with three color variants: red, grey and white. Pinot Noir is the other. These two grapes share a generally pale color and softer tannins. However, they differ in where they like to be grown. Pinot Noir likes cool climates and Garnacha likes warm ones. Garnacha has been called the Pinot Noir of the south, but we could also say that Pinot Noir is the Garnacha of the north!
Once introductions are made … Let’s make a toast for this new friend of us!