Garnacha is a red wine grape grown in Spain, France, the United States, and Australia. It is a very versatile fruit both in the winery and in the vineyard. It is also one of the most widely distributed wine grapes in the world.
Garnacha vs. Grenache
Grenache is the French name for this grape. It is also the name by which it is most recognized internationally. It also goes by a number of other names. Garnacha is its moniker in Spain, where it is grown extensively. On the island of Sardinia, it has been called Cannonau for centuries. Some even believe that the Garnacha grape originated in Sardinia and was then brought to Spain by the Aragonese – the people who occupied Sardinia during the 14th century.
In France, Grenache is planted most widely in the Southern Rhone Valley as well as throughout both Languedoc-Roussillon and Provence. Used in blends, these grapes present all kinds of possibilities for skilled winemakers to explore. The Grenache-based Rosé, for example, is among the signature wine styles of Southern France.
Garnacha is the second most widely planted red wine grape in Spain. Only its modern-day blending partner, Tempranillo, is planted more. Garnacha is grown in virtually all areas of Spain but is grown in greatest abundance in the north and east.
In the 19th century, a grapevine pest called phylloxera made its way to the Iberian Peninsula and turned into a happy accident that was much to the benefit of Garnacha grapes. The phylloxera managed to ravage through nearly all the native vines, but the tenacious Garnacha survived and the vineyards of Spain were replenished with this single little marvel. Garnacha actually reenergized Spain’s wine industry at the time.
The 1980s and 1990s saw a decline in popularity of Garnacha, but today it is reemerging in a number of wine-producing countries, including Israel, Mexico, and China, all of which are actively cultivating the grapes at present.
Grenache is a hardy and vigorous vine. Its sturdy wooden frame allows it to be grown as freestanding bush vines that are resistant to drought and wind. This makes the varietal suitable for planting in the more arid regions of California and Southern Australia. When grown in warmer climates, the alcohol levels in Garnacha-based wines can be notably high, often exceeding 15% ABV. In Australia, some winemakers use Garnacha as the base for Port-style wines.
Garnacha grapes are thin-skinned and ripen late into the growing season. The levels of acids and tannins vary depending on various factors, like cropping levels and growing conditions. Both qualities trend toward low to medium. The exception to the rule is the old-vine Grenache that is grown in stone or schist (like Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Priorat), which produces wines that are more concentrated and can be aged over a number of decades. When produced as a varietal, Garnacha exhibits flavours that are spicy and rich with notes of berry – raspberry in particular.