Grenache (Garnacha in Spain) was at one point one of the most widely cultivated grapes in the world. It plays a role in some of the most renowned wines in the world including Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Priorat, and Cannonau among others.
The grape grows best in hot, dry climates. This makes it perfect for growing in Spain, Southern France, Sardinia, and Southern California among other areas. It is usually blended with other grapes in wines where it plays a major role because it usually lacks tannin and acidity. As one of my favorite grapes, I love to introduce adventurous wine drinkers to wines where Grenache plays the starring role.
Few American wines come to mind when looking for Grenache. However, one of my favorites comes to mind in the form of a one-off wine from Santa Barbara created by the Dirty Pure Project and called the F-Bomb. This wine is 89% Grenache, 6% Barbera, and 5% Lagrein and clocks in at 14.2% alcohol. It has notes of fresh cracked pepper, cigar box, and strawberries. On the palate it is deceptively light-bodied with intense flavors of blackberry and strawberry with a velvety texture and a long finish. The F-Bomb is a love/hate wine for many people and is worth a try if you’re looking for something unique.
From Spain, my favorite Grenache (Garnacha) is Cistum Red. This wine comes from pre-phylloxera vines averaging 120 years old! It has aromas of red berries, cedar, leather, and sandalwood. On the palate, there are flavors of black cherry, spices and graphite. This is a full-bodied wine that is perfect by itself or paired with charcuterie, duck, mushrooms, beef, roasted root vegetables, slow-smoked BBQ.
My favorite French version of Grenache is in Chateauneauf-du-Pape. Here, it is used in at least 80% of the blend and these wines vary from chateau to chateau. One of my favorites is Chateau Cabrieres. This wine has pronounced cherry and blackcurrant fruit with a minerality that is classic French. The finish is laced with tea, spices, and black pepper. This wine is what first introduced me to Chateauneauf-du-Pape and will always be one of my favorites.
Finally, we go to Sardinia, the little island off the coast of Italy. This island has been studied by many doctors because of the longevity of its population. Part of the daily diet for those living there involves drinking a glass or two of the local wine, Cannonau, daily. Cannonau is made up of 99% Grenache and traditionally aged in Chestnut Barrels. This is a very rustic wine that pairs well with food, especially hard cheeses and game. My favorite, Santa Maria La Palma, has a light body and notes of spice, leather, plum, and soil. This is one type of medicine I wouldn’t mind taking daily.
These should motivate you to seek out some fantastic wines made from an old grape that I hope will never go out of style.
Bill Dahl, ABC Fine Wine & Spirits wine consultant
Follow me on Twitter @ABCwineBillD