Five great grenache wines to try this spring

High in alcohol yet light in colour and soft on the palate, this widely planted, versatile grape makes some truly great wines.

Grapes ready to harvest

Photograph by Getty Images
By Fiona Beckett
Published 17 Mar 2023, 17:41 GMT

How often do you walk into a wine bar and order a grenache? Not often, I suspect, or at least not consciously. It’s one of those grapes, like sangiovese, that just isn’t particularly famous in its own right, even though it’s a constituent part of wines as well known as Châteauneuf-du-Pape. 

Confusingly, there’s also more than one type of grenache, the most common being grenache noir, which is grown throughout the Mediterranean, especially in the Rhône and Languedoc regions of Southern France, as well as Spain, where it’s known as garnacha tinta, and Sardinia, where it’s called cannonau.

Grenache is characterised by a high alcohol content — often as much as 15% — and for generally being a full, rich plummy wine. It’s at its best when the grapes come from old vines and are blended with varieties like syrah, which have a bit more structure, to counteract grenache’s softness.

Usefully, in these days of global warming, it can also handle high temperatures. And while it makes wines that age well in the medium term — it’s not as long-lived as cabernet sauvignon, for example — it actually drinks really well young, with youth seeming to add a freshness that’s lacking in older vintages.

Wherever you find red grenache, you’ll also find white grenache (garnacha blanca) and grenache gris (garnacha raja), both of which make richly textured white wines not dissimilar to a chardonnay but with more of a mineral character than a creamy, buttery one — whites that can stand up to relatively robust meat dishes like pork and veal.   

Beyond Europe, grenache noir is also grown in South Africa, particularly in the Swartland region, while in Australia — where it tends to be blended with syrah and mourvèdre (a mix known as GSM) — it was the most widely grown red wine variety until the 1960s. 

Attitudes to grenache are changing, however, especially Down Under. In the past, many winemakers were apologetic about grenache’s inherent lightness. “They’d often take measures such as picking late and even running grenache juice over shiraz skins in an effort to make it ‘man up’,” explains Daniel Chaffey Hartwig, founder of Chaffey Bros. However, producers such as Chaffey Hartwig are increasingly using grenache to make fresher, more fragrant wines, embracing the grape for “the ethereal elegance it naturally shows.” 

In addition, many Spanish rosés, and Southern French rosés like Tavel, also include or are based on grenache, as are the so-called vin doux naturels Banyuls, Maury and Rivesaltes, delicious, sweet, port-like wines from Roussillon down by the Spanish border. It really is an extraordinarily varied and versatile grape.

Five to try

1. Morrisons The Best Marqués de Los Ríos Garnacha 2019

Fresh, clean, juicy but not too jammy, this is a good example of the value for money you get from Spanish garnacha, in this case from Navarra. Easy-drinking yet equally at home with barbecue or pasta. £7.50. 

2. Domaine de l’Amandine Séguret Côtes du Rhône Villages 2020 

Côtes du Rhône wines include some of the best grenache, in this case blended with syrah. Juicy, with plum and cherry fruit, it would be great with a hearty stew or casserole. £13.90.

3. Chaffey Bros Pax Aeterna Old Vine ‘Barossa Nouveau’ Grenache 2022

A vibrant, natural, young red not far from a ‘nouveau’ style. Made from old vines using indigenous yeasts and left unfiltered and unfined. Equally good chilled, with fish, grilled veg or meat. £16.65.

4. Wolf & Woman grenache blanc 2021 

South Africa is making some of the most exciting white grenache, such as this bottle from young female winemaker Jolandie Fouché. A creamy wine with hints of citrus, pear and melon; great with salads and grilled chicken. £95 for a case of six.

5. Domaine Pouderoux Maury Grande Reserve, Roussillon

A warm, sweet, figgy, grenache-based fortified wine from Roussillon. You could drink it like port, with stilton and other blue cheeses, but it’s also good with rich, dark chocolate desserts. £11.49 (for 50cl).

Published in Issue 19 (spring 2023) of Food by National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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