Grenache is an important variety for many countries around the globe. While it represents less than 2% of plantings in Australia, it is one of the world’s most widely planted grape varieties.
Grenache is thought to have originated in Spain where it is referred to as Garnacha and is best known for its inclusion in the wines of Rioja. In France, it is important in the wines of the Languedoc-Roussillon and the Southern Rhône. It also has a significant presence in California.
Although Grenache has had a long history in Australia, its days of high popularity are over. Due to Australia's heritage of fortified wine production, it was once the most widely planted grape variety, due in part to its rich fruit flavours and its ability to get very ripe. However it became less important when table wine production increased midway through the 20th century. Since then, plantings decreased rapidly, aided by the vine pull scheme of the 1970s, where a lot of old vine material was removed. Today it is still used for fortified production, however it is now most widely known for its role in table wines.
Grenache is a versatile variety and is used to make both light and heavy red wines. It is widely used in the production of Rosé due to its cherry red colour and its fragrant berry aromatics. However it can also be made into medium and full bodied reds, which have fleshy mid palates and soft tannins. While it shines as a straight varietal, with its flavours of berry fruit, cherries, earth and spice, it also blends well with Shiraz and Mourvèdre. When these three varieties are blended together, they are colloquially referred to as GSM or Rhône red blends.
The best Grenache in Australia is produced from old vineyards in both the Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale. The latter has shown its dedication to the variety by the formulation of its 'Cadenzia' program. This is a regional showcase of the variety and wineries are encouraged to experiment with different styles to highlight Grenache from the region.
From a viticultural point of view, care must be taken with Grenache in the vineyard to control crop load to maintain fruit concentration. During the ripening phase, baumé levels must be watched closely to avoid unpleasantly high alcohol levels.
Grenache based wines go well with a wide range of foods. The lighter
styles are excellent partners to antipasto, roasted vegetables and
pizza where as the heavier wines suit richly flavoured meats such
as beef and kangaroo. They are also a great accompaniment to the
classic Australian barbeque.
© Toni Paterson 2006