One of the world’s most widely planted varieties, Grenache, (a.k.a. Garnacha, Alicante, Cannonau, Grenache Noir,) ripens very late, thrives in hot, dry conditions, and creates lush, spicy, earthy red wine. Often used as a blending variety in bold blends from the Rhone Valley, particularly celebrated wines from Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Languedoc, Australia, and the US, bringing spicy cinnamon, licorice, juicy red cherry, and strawberry flavors to blends Syrah and Mourvedre, balancing out robust, high tannin varieties But, as tasty as GSM blends are, the single-variety wines are just as stunning, particularly those from Spain.
As spring has sprung, bringing Rose season along for the refreshing ride, Rose wines produced from Grenache showcase lovely ruby red grapefruit and passionfruit flavors, along with classic strawberry and anise notes. From California’s Central Coast, Malene Rosé ($22) blends predominantly Grenache (80%) with Mourvedre, Syrah, and a touch of Cinsault to create an aromatic, expressive wine revealing juicy layers of wild strawberry, cantaloupe melon, crushed stone, and wild herb.
From Sonoma’s Bricoleur Vineyards, Flying By the Seat of Our Pants – Kick Ranch Rosé of Grenache ($29) is gently whole-cluster pressed after hand-harvesting toachieve an ideal pale salmon color, but there is nothing pale about this vibrant wine. Fleshy and juicy, with gorgeous character achieved from four months of aging the wine in stainless steel on the yeasts, maintaining floral and fruity freshness while giving texture, the wine reveals layer upon layer of golden peach, pomelo, ripe grapefruit, and fresh white flowers.
The home to Grenache is thought to be in Spain, where Garnacha as it is known locally thriving throughout the regions of Priorat, Somontano, Campo de Borja, and Calatayud, ripens late in the season delivering very ripe fruit with alcohol levels peaking in the 15.5% range. Though the alcohol is high, the wines remain surprisingly approachable, with juicy cherry and red licorice notes.
From rocky limestone-rich soils of the D.O. of Campo de Borja, Bodegas Alto Moncayo Veraton ($32) produces earthy, tobacco and dried leaves filled Garnacha from vines averaging 30-50 years old. Powerful and dense, without being overly weighty or tannic, the fleshy wine layers black cherry, red cherry, dark chocolate, and cinnamon.
Also from the grown in clay and limestone soils of Campo de Borja, from old vine (35 – 60 years old) fruit, Bodega Borsao Tres Picos Garnacha ($18) reveals bold black fruit notes of blackberry, blueberry, and ripe black plum melding easily with soft herbal notes and dusty leather.
From the hidden valley of Seacastilla, in the Somontano foothills of Spain’s Pyrenees Mountains in northern Aragon, 100-year-old Garnacha vines produce highly concentrated, robust, earthy wine with gorgeous character, as displayed in Vinas del Vero Secastilla ($40). With a moderate alcohol level of around 13.4%, the character of the wine is allowed to shine, revealing nuanced sagebrush and toasted spice aromas, melding with ripe black cherry, plum, and spicy black licorice.
Throughout the slightly cooler regions of Southern France, through the Languedoc and Rhone Valley, Grenache thrives producing wines with character, bringing in classic Herbs de Provence notes of lavender, wild sage, and thyme, marrying harmoniously with wild berry and cassis fruit notes. Chateau de Rouanne Vinsobres ($30) blends Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre creating a balanced wine revealing layers of raspberry, wildflowers, tobacco, and freshly baked gingerbread.
Established in 1570 in the Southern Rhone’s Gigondas region, in an area that was originally planted by the Romans, Chateau de Saint Cosme is the quintessential producer of quality wines in the area with estate vineyards that today average 60 years old. Château de Saint Cosme Little James Basket Press ($16) is produced in a solera style by blending various vintages of Old Vine Grenache in concrete tanks, beginning with the 1999 vintage and moving forward. The resulting wine has beautiful freshness and vibrancy, melding harmoniously with concentration, texture, and balanced structure showing ripe red fruit and sweet spice notes.
Since 1989 Paso Robles’ Tablas Creek Vineyards has worked with Château de Beaucastel in Châteauneuf-du-Pape to bring in cuttings of Côtes du Rhône wine grapes to America. Showcasing the rich character of Grenache, Tablas Creek Cotes de Tablas ($35) blends predominantly Grenache, with Syrah, Counoise, and Mourvedre, revealing a fruit-filled palate of blackberry and cherry, with texture, rich structure, balance, with a lovely note of pepper and spice on the finish.