Whether you know it as Grenache, Garnacha, or something else entirely, there's a very good chance you've enjoyed a couple of glasses of it at some point. Grenache is one of the most successful and ubiquitous grape varieties in the world, grown almost anywhere and drunk almost everywhere. Its flavor profile might be hard to pin down, varying from elegant and ethereal to fruity and juicy, but its numerous expressions only add to its appeal. Here are a few facts that may surprise you about Grenache wine.
1. It's a wine of many names
Depending on where you are in the world, don't be surprised if you hear Grenache referred to by a very different name. In France, it goes by the name Grenache. In Spain, it prefers to be called Garnacha (a word that's actually believed to derive from Vernaccia, the name allotted to an assortment of Italian white grape varieties. Considering the first time the word Garnacha appeared in print was in a short story by Miguel de Cervantes about a man with a predilection for Italian whites, it seems a sound suggestion). And then there's all the local names it goes by, which according to Wikipedia, includes Abundante, Aragones, Bois Jaune, Bordò, Cannonaddu, Cannonadu Nieddu, Cannonau, Carignane rosso, Elegante, Francese, Garnatxa negra, Garnatxa Pais, Gironet, Granaccia, Granaxa, Grenache noir, Grenache rouge, Navarre de la Dordogne, Navarro, Santa Maria de Alcantara, Tinto Menudo, Tinto Navalcarnero, Uva di Spagna, Vernatxa, and at least a few dozen others.
2. It's a globe trotter
Grenache may have originated in the old world, but its since taken up residence in all four corners of the globe. According to those in the know (or in this case, Vinography) it's the second most planted varietal in the world, growing from Paris to Peru and anywhere in between with enough warmth and sunlight for it to thrive.
3. All US Grenache leads to Tablas Creek
All roads might lead to Rome, but all Grenache wines in the US lead to Tablas Creek. According to drink-drink.ru, the winery has been working in cooperation with the Château de Beaucastel in Châteauneuf-du-Pape since 1989 to bring cuttings of Côte du Rhône wine grapes to America. Its nursery is now almost solely responsible for planting grape varieties such as Grenache and Viognier in the US.
4. It occupies more territory than any other grape variety
Despite the fact that other grape varieties such as Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon can be grown just about anywhere in the world, Grenache actually beats them all when it comes to territory. More land has been given over to the variety than any other grape, thanks largely to the sprawling vineyards in northern Spain.
5. It was one of the earliest varieties planted in Australia
According to australianwine.com, Grenache was one of the very earliest grape varieties to be planted in Australia. It was first introduced to the country in the 18th century and quickly took root, becoming one of the main wines used in the sweet fortified wines that formed the foundation of the early Australian wine industry. It remained the most widely planted grape variety until the mid-1960s, at which point Shiraz sneaked up and stole its crown. Today, the country boasts the world's oldest continuously producing vines.
6. It likes company
In recent years, Grenache has come into its own as a solo wine thanks to its lovely fragrance and elegant body. But it also has a long history of being blended with other, far more expensive wines to give them a little added va va voom. As well as being the dominant variety in South Rhone wines like the legendary (and jaw-droppingly expensive) Châteauneuf-du-Pape, it's also a major part of the Sardinian D.O.C. wine Cannonau di Sardegna along with wines from the Tavel region of Cotes du Rhone. Thanks to its ability to inject a big hit of body and fruitiness without any extra tannins, you'll often find it in fortified wines, especially those from Australia.
7. It's not as cheap as you think
There's a lot of expensive wines out there, but Grenache isn't one of them. It's a high yield grape, and, as with most high yield grapes, doesn't command the big price tags of more exclusive varieties. Most of the time, anyway. But every now and again, a bottle will come along with a price that'll stretch your budget to the limit. The super-exclusive Sine Qua Non from California's central coast, for example, can fetch anything from between $300 and $2000. Bottles of Château Rayas and Domaine du Pegau will typically cost you around $600. If you want to try some of the cult Spanish favorite Ermita Velle Vinyes, expect to hand over at least $300.
8. Some of the biggest growing regions might surprise you
When we think of wine-growing countries, we tend to think of France, Spain, Italy, the US, New Zealand, South Africa.... but not necessarily Tunisia. And certainly not Alergia. And yet when it comes to Grenache, the smaller, less well-known wine-growing countries are giving the traditional producers are a run for their money. While France and Spain still dominate (France holds the No. 1 spot for Ganache production and Spain holds the second spot), African nations are creeping up the league table. Algeria, for example, now ranks as the fourth largest Grenache growing region, while Tunisia is just two spots behind at number six.
9. It's ancient
There's nothing wrong with newer grape varieties, but if you prefer your wine to come with a drop of history, Grenache won't disappoint. Although no one's sure of exactly when it began to be cultivated, all the evidence points to it being a very, very long time ago. The very earliest mention of the wine in literature dates back to an early 16th-century text by Gabriel Alonso de Herrera called Agricultura general, in which it's named under its synonym Aragones and described as a “black-berried variety from Madrid.”
10. Its story started in Spain
France might be the biggest producer of Grenache in the word, and the French name Grenache may be more commonly used than the Spanish name Garnacha, but most wine experts believe that Grenache (or Garnacha) actually originated in Spain, or, more precisely, in the Aragon region in the north of the country. Even today, it's one of the most widely available and affordable wines in the country.
Written by Lily Wordsmith
Read more posts by Lily Wordsmith