One of the most popular red wine grapes worldwide, Grenache is an essential part of great Rhône wine and is also common in Spain. It is an earthy, spicy grape, similar to Syrah, and as wine it has a naturally high alcohol content and strong, varying flavors. Grenache makes up a great deal of Australian Port, due to its naturally high sugar levels, and is a very popular grape for rosé production all over the world. Versatility is not its weak point.
Grenache most likely originated in Spain, where it is called Garnacha, but it could also have originated on the Italian island of Sardinia. It was one of the first introduced grapes to Australia, where it became very popular in the 18th century. Grenache is still very popular in Australia. It has also taken to the chilly climates of Washington, which is interesting since it usually thrives in warmer areas.
Whether the climate is warm or cold, Grenache takes a very long time to ripen, although it is not a finicky grape. The high alcohol levels of the resulting wines make Grenache suitable for Port. The grape is more labor-intensive to cultivate than most, leading to a recent decrease in popularity as wineries continue to mechanize harvests.
As a result, the best examples of Grenache still come from France. It is most widely planted in the Languedoc-Roussillon. The best wine comes from the Southern Rhône, notably Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Here Grenache commonly makes up the majority of the blend.
In Spain, the Garnacha grape is still widely planted, although without as much prominence as it has attained in the Rhône. In blends such as Rioja it adds crucial juiciness and fruitiness to Tempranillo, sometimes in levels of around 40%. Only in Priorat is it respected as a varietal, whereas in other parts of the country 100% Garnacha wines are mostly table styles.
The grape can be found in Italy as well, especially Sardinia, where it is called Cannonau.
Grenache was introduced to Australia in 1832, along with other grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon, and immediately became popular. However, plantings declined in the 20th century when Cabernet and Syrah became more popular. Lately, the resurgence of Rhône blends has led to an increase in popularity for this grape.
In the United States, Washington has had the most success, while Chile and Australia are increasing plantings.