Grenache: The Best of Blends
We’re willing to wager that you’re more familiar with Grenache than you may think. While it doesn’t get much “bottle label billing” and you won’t find a dedicated Grenache section in your local supermarket, this grape is a Queen among blends, and is the flavoursome base for some of the best wines. So, let’s find out a little more…
What’s the story in all its glory?
Grenache (Garnacha in Spanish) is a wildly important grape, particularly in France and Spain. In France, it typically forms a large part of blends from the southern Rhône (alongside Syrah and Mourvèdre). In Spain, Garnacha is used as a component to produce iconic red wines (Hello, Rioja!) and rosés.
This grape has a few demands but the most important is a warm climate to help with ripening. Grenache can accumulate sugar very quickly which can result in high alcohol wines with low acidity and low levels of tannin. Perfect for blending.
So where have you come across Grenache before? Well, if you’ve ever been heading to a dinner party and wanted to take a posh bottle of wine, you may have been drawn to a Châteaneuf-du-Pape. The labels are traditionally adorned, and the bottles look . They tend to be a bit expensive but with good reason. When you’re choosing a wine from the oldest appellation in France, the wines are usually very special and deserving of the price tag.
You’re probably also familiar with Côtes du Rhône. This isn’t too far removed from Châteaneuf-du-Pape, with both coming from the southern part of the Rhône valley. A wonderful blend of Grenache and a few other players, Côtes du Rhone wines can be anything from cheap and cheerful, to the sublime and celebratory.
And then there’s Rioja. Ah, Rioja – a modern day staple in UK shopping trolleys. Rioja gained notoriety in the 1700s as the wines were similar(ish) in style to those from Bordeaux, and when Bordeaux was hit by a nasty bug infestation (Google: Phylloxera) wine consumers turned to Rioja. While Garnacha isn’t always present in the reds from Rioja, it can bring loads of fresh strawberry flavours and a bit of beef by way of alcohol and body. A truly delicious addition.
One other iteration you may be familiar with is the very classic Australian blend, GSM (Grenache, Shiraz & Mourvèdre). A powerful and overtly flavoursome red wine that is superbly gluggable.
What should you be looking out for?
Brilliant Grenache based wines are easier to come across than you may think. The reds can be young or old, and the rosés are all about the right balance of dry and sweet.
Grenache thrives in dry soil and hot weather, hence being successful in southern France. This extra sun makes for ripe, fruit filled grapes. You won’t find many grenache options that come from cooler climates and that’s a good thing.
When you’re searching for a good Grenache, think of what you’re going to be enjoying it with. Côtes du Rhone can be inexpensive and lighter in body, so perfect as a midweek tipple. You can count on flavours of red and black fruits with a lick of spice. Châteauneuf-du-Pape, on the other hand, will normally be higher in alcohol, be heavier in body and be richer on the palate with more concentration and structure. Châteauneuf-du-Pape is more of a serious dealer and can be made to lay down for a few years. For Rioja, examples from Rioja Oriental will often feature garnacha as the grape suits the warmer climate. Again, expect the silkiness of Rioja but with a bit more oomph.
As for rosés, we’re fans of anything that’s pink and dry, and we recommend trying everything and anything you can get your hands on. Especially while the sun is out.
What’s it good with?
The fruit flavours of Grenache make it the perfect accompanier of meat dishes. Anything roasted or barbequed is perfect with a Châteauneuf-du-Pape or a Côtes du Rhône. The bright fruit and subtle spice make the meat flavours burst in delightful fashion. Rosé is more suited to sipping on its own. It’s hard to imagine a time when a bottle of rosé opened just before the food arrives will make it to the first bite. But if you’re feeling stoic, a charcuterie board, tomato tart or selection of barbequed veggies will do the trick.
Basically, if the sun is out the Grenache should follow.
What are the best examples?
Our absolute favourites of the Grenache variety are:
- Côtes de Thau Rosé, 2020, Maison Boutinot – Perfect pale pink for summer sipping,
- Côtes du Rhône Rouge, 2018, Domaine de la Présidente – Fresh red fruit and neat tannins
- La Pierre du Diables Rosé, 2020, Rhonea Artisans Vignerons – Devilishly fruity rosé that demands you finish it
- Grenache, Syrah, Touriga Nacional, 2016, S.C. Pannell – Seductive, lush, and powerful.