Garnacha/Grenache – whether red, white, rosé or fortified – presents several advantages and challenges. While it is not a difficult grape to grow, Garnacha/Grenache is highly sensitive to variations in terroir and requires specific conditions and care to produce its best wines. In some places – such as Chateauneuf du Pape – the varietal has historically been blended with other grapes so it can add its ripe, aromatic and fruity aromas to other grapes with more tannins or color. Finding the perfect balance is a real art that European winemakers have succeeded in mastering.
“For me, Grenache has been a bit like the proverbial girl next door.
Has taken yearsto work out how beautiful she is.”
Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon Vineyards
Producing a good single varietal Garnacha/Grenache wine isn’t less of a challenge and you have to be careful and follow some specific rules! Winemakers in areas like the Protected Designations of Origin of Calatayud, Campo de Borja, Cariñena, Somontano, Terra Alta and Roussillon manage to produce excellent single varietals combining traditional and modern techniques:
Garnacha/Grenache feels most at home in hot, windy and dry climates, similar to the area where it originated.
It is key to keep yields down to improve concentration with low or no irrigation at all. There is even evidence that Garnacha/Grenache benefits from a mild degree of water stress.
They reduce the yield and increase concentration.
While Garnacha/Grenache can produce excellent wines on a variety of soils – there are very good wines made from Garnacha/Grenache on schist, granite and limestone – poorer soils give the best results. But no matter the mineral composition, it is critical that the soils be warm and with excellent drainage so that the roots will dig deep.
Fermentation at a low temperature
It is essential for preserving freshness. For most red wines, maceration takes place before or during the early stages of fermentation in order to impart color and tannin, but is stopped before the wines can become too tannic. New oak barrels can help as well, but must be used moderately in order not to mask the sweet and fruity character of Garnacha/Grenache. White Garnacha/Grenache also needs to be fermented at low temperatures if the wine is to retain its freshness and minerality.
“Who dared to bet on Garnacha 25 years ago? Nobody did… Happily enough, nowadays, Garnacha is being rediscovered… Fortunately, [the area where Garnacha originated]… has shaken off the tag of rough, tannic wines displaying proudly the grape’s name on some labels.”
José Peñín, Spanish wine guru
With great attention to terroir, modern winemaking techniques, and century-old vineyards, this region represents the purest expression of Garnacha as a varietal wine.
“Grenache is fascinating in its ability to adapt to where and how it’s grown, and to really reflect a sense of place. It’s often used to enhance top blends, like in Chateauneuf du Pape, and it is the basis for most rose’, YET is capable on its own of producing great wines that age beautifully. It’s developing a real cult-following.”