The Grape Adventure: Grenache

Miami Wine Buzz offer great wine made of Grenache.

The Devoy-Martine is a typical Côte-du-Rhône wine made of Grenache and Syrah.

You would love to try some, get your package by clicking DISCOVERY

So, the Grenache use to be the most planted grape. Then it went through some uprooted in Europe following some new rules establish by the EU.

It originated in Spain and more precisely from the city of Granada where it would have taken it's name.

It's a perfect partner to the harsher varietal like the Syrah and the Carignan. It plays a main role in some amazing wine from region like the Chateauneuf-du-Pape and Priorat. It was use during the 17th Century in Burgundy wines to improve the flavour of Pinot Noir. That was until the AOC appeared but nobody in Burgundy wants to talk about it !

What else?

The Grenache produce abundant fruits. It can survive in very arid and drought condition. It thrive in hot weather and to attain a good maturity it need a lot of warm weather during the growing season. It's a grape that ripe late.

The early history of Grenache is closely linked to the lands once ruled under the Aragonese Monarch and may have originated in Aragon or Sardinia.

 

The DNA analysis suggest that Grenache is of Spanish origins. An early synonym for the vine was Tinto Aragonés (red of Aragon). A competing theory, still to be proven, say that the Grenache originated from the Island of Sardinia (Italy) where the grape is known as Cannonau and was brought to Spain in the 14th or 15th century when Sardinia was under the rule of the Monarch of Aragon. 

Grenache, under its Spanish synonym Garnacha, was already well established on both sides of the Pyrenees from the Roussillon, then in Languedoc and then by the 19th Century it was well establish in the Southern Rhone.

Grenache was one of the 1st varieties to be introduced to Australia in the 18th century and eventually became the country's most widely planted red wine grape variety until it was surpassed by Shiraz in the mid 1960s.

Early Australian Grenache was a main component in the sweet fortified wines. Grenache was extensively planted throughout the hot San Joaquin Valley (California) where it was mainly used as a blending component for pale, sweet jug wines. In the late 20th century, the Rhone Rangers movement brought attention to the production of premium Grenache and Rhone style blends modeled after the Grenache dominate wines of Chateauneuf-du-Pape.

Based on the West Coast, mostly California, the Rhone Rangers is group of American winemakers formed in the 1980's. They are dedicated to the promotion of Rhone Grape varieties. They promote wines with at least 75% of the 22 Rhône grape varieties.

In the early 20th century, Grenache was one of the first grapes to be successfully vinified in during the early development of the Washington State wine industry. 

Into the Grape Vine

The Grenache vine is characterized by its strong wood canopy and upright growth. It has good wind tolerance (which is useful in the Mistral influenced Rhone region) and has shown itself to be very suited for the dry, warm windy climate.

 

As we said, Grenache need a long growing season. It's often harvest weeks after the Cabernet Sauvignon. As the growing season extend so the Sugar and in consequence the Alcohol level reaching 15% ABV.

Grenache thrives on schist and granite soils and has responded well to the stony soil of Châteauneuf-du-Pape with the area's galets roulés heat retaining stones. In Priorat, the crumbly schist soil of the region retain enough water to allow producers to avoid irrigation in the dry wine region. Vineyards with an overabundance of irrigation tend to produce pale colored wines with diluted flavors and excessive alcohol 

Schist Soil

Schist Soil: schist is a mixture of numerous minerals. Soils formed from granite and schist have loose texture and low fertility but drain well.

 

Galet Roulé

Galet Roulé: The Galet gather the heat from the Sun during day time and then act as a heater during the cooler night of Côte-du-Rhone during the fall.

Yield control is intimately connected with the resulting quality of wine with yields below 35 hl/ha (2 tons/acre), such as those practiced by many Châteauneuf-du-Pape estates, producing very different wines than those with yields closer to 50 hl/ha (5 tons/acre) which is the base yield for AOC wines labeled under the Côte-du-Rhône designation.The strong wood canopy of Grenache makes the vine difficult to harvest with mechanical harvester and pruning equipment and more labor intensive to cultivate. In highly mechanized wine regions, such as Australia and California, this has contributed to a decline in the vine's popularity.

 

Winemaking

Working with Grenache can be a challenge due to it's tendency to oxidize easily and lose color. To compensate for the grape's naturally low tannins and phenolic compounds, some producers will use excessively harsh pressing and hot fermentation with stems to extract the maximal amount of color and phenols from the skins. This can backfire to produce green, herbaceous flavors and coarse, astringent wine lacking the grape's characteristic vibrant, fruitiness. To maintains those character traits, Grenache responds best to a long, slow fermentation at cooler temperatures followed by a maceration period. To curb against oxidation, the wine should be racked (Soutirage, Filtering) as little as possible.

Filtering is the technique of moving wine from one barrel to another using gravity instead of Pump.

The use of new oak barrel can help with retaining color and preventing oxidation but too much oak influence can cover up the fruitiness of Grenache.

The high levels of sugars and lack of harsh tannins, makes Grenache well adapted to the production of fortified wines, such as the vin doux naturels (VDN) of the Roussillon region and the "port-style" wines of Australia.  

These wines can be made in a rancio style by leaving it outside in glass demi-johns or wooden barrels where the wine bakes in the sun for several years until it develops a maderized character.

 

Demi Johns

These fortified VDNs and port-style wines have longevity and can be drinkable well into their third decade.

Wine made of Grenache.

Wine made of 100% grenache tend to age rapidly and are prone to oxidation after just a few years in bottle. The taste is very distinct from the other grape and can easily be recognized. Taste of Cinnamon, Strawberry even in their youth is what will give it away.

Tasting:

Fruit: Strawberry, Black Cherry, Raspberry

Other: Tobacco, Cinnamon, Orange

Food pairing:

Once you have a great bottle of Grenache in your hands wether it's a Blend or a 100% Grenache here are some interesting plate to pair it with:

 

 

Interesting facts:

The most expensive Grenache

In France there is Château Rayas and Domaine du Pegau from Chateauneuf-du-Pape

In Spain wines from Alvaro Palacio and Clos Erasmus

In California, the star is Sine Qua No

 

Ref: Wikipedia, Grapeonline, Jancis Robinson