Grenache or Garnacha is one of the most widely planted red wine grape varieties in the world. It ripens late, so it needs hot, dry conditions such as those found in Spain, where the grape most likely originated. It is also grown in the Italian isle of Sardinia, the south of France, Australia, and California's Monterey AVA and San Joaquin Valley.
It is generally spicy, berry-flavoured and soft on the palate and produces wine with a relatively high alcohol content, but it needs careful control of yields for best results. Characteristic flavour profiles on Grenache include red fruit flavours (raspberry and strawberry) with a subtle, white pepper spice note. Grenache wines are highly prone to oxidation, with even young examples having the potential to show browning (or "bricking") coloration that can be noticed around the rim when evaluating the wine at an angle in the glass. As Grenache ages the wines tend to take on more leather and tar flavours. Wines made from Grenache tend to lack acid, tannin and colour, and it is often blended with other varieties such as Syrah, Carignan, Tempranillo, and Cinsaut.
In Spain, there are mono-varietal wines made of Garnacha tinta (red Grenache), notably in the southern Aragon wine regions of Calatayud, Carinena and Campo de Borja, but it is also used in blends, as in some Rioja wines with tempranillo. Grenache is the dominant variety in most Southern Rhône wines, especially in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, where it is typically over 80% of the blend. In Australia it is typically blended in "GSM" blends with Syrah (commonly known as Shiraz in that country) and Mourvèdre with old vine examples in McLaren Vale. In Italy, the Sardinian D.O.C. wine Cannonau di Sardegna is by law 90% local Grenache (Cannonau). Grenache is also used to make rosé wines in France and Spain, notably those of the Tavel district in the Côtes du Rhône and those of the Navarra region. And the high sugar levels of Grenache have led to extensive use in fortified wines, including the red vins doux naturels of Roussillon such as Banyuls, and as the basis of most Australian fortified wine.
Grenache is often used as a blending component, adding body and sweet fruitiness to a wine. The grape can be troublesome for the winemaker due to tendency to oxidize easily and lose colour. 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 colour and phenols from the skins. This can backfire to produce green, herbaceous flavours and coarse, astringent wine lacking the grape's characteristic vibrant fruitiness. To maintain 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 as little as possible. The use of new oak barrels can help with retaining colour 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. In these wines, the must ferments for three days before grape spirit is added to the must to halt the fermentation and the conversion of sugar into alcohol. The high alcoholic proof grape spirit brings the finished wine up to 15–16% alcohol. These wines can be made in a rancio style by being left outside in glass demi-johns (or carboys) or wooden barrels where the wine bakes in the sun for several years until it develops a maderized character and flavours of sour raisins, nuts and cheese. These fortified VDNs and port-style wines have longevity and can be drinkable well into their third decade.
Alternative Names: Alicante, Cannonau, Garnacha, Garnacha Tinta, Garnatxa, Granaccia, Grenache Noir, Lladoner, Tinto Aragones, Tocai Rosso
Mourvèdre is a red wine grape variety grown in many regions around the world including the Rhône and Provence regions of France, the Valencia and Jumilla denominaciones de origen of Spain, as well as the Balearic Islands, California and Washington and the Australian regions of South Australia and New South Wales, as well as South Africa. In addition to making red varietal wines, Mourvèdre is a prominent component in "GSM" (Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre) blends. The variety is also used to make rosé and port-style fortified wines.
Mourvèdre tends to produce tannic wines that can be high in alcohol. The style of wine produced from the grapes varies greatly according to where it is produced, but according to wine expert Jancis Robinson Mourvèdre wines often have wild game, or earthy notes to them, with soft red fruit flavours. According to wine expert Oz Clarke, young Mourvèdre can come across as faulted due to the reductive, sulfur notes and "farmyard-y" flavours that some wines can exhibit before those flavours mellow with age.
The variety can be a difficult grape to grow, preferring "its face in the hot sun and its feet in the water" meaning that it needs very warm weather, a low leaf-to-fruit ratio but adequate water or irrigation to produce intensely flavoured fruit that is not overly jammy or herbaceous. The vines' susceptibility to many viticultural hazards such as powdery and downy mildew as well as overly vigorous foliage can present additional problems for vine growers.
The small, thick-skin berries of Mourvèdre are high in phenolic compounds that have the potential to produce a deeply coloured, very tannic wine with significant alcohol levels if harvested at high sugar levels. However, the variety is rarely harvested at sugar levels below 13% alcohol (approx 23 Brix) because the flavours at those lower levels are often very weak and herbaceous. In winemaking, wines made from Mourvèdre are prone to both oxidation and reductive flavours (such as hydrogen sulphide) if care is not taken at the winery. While in Bandol, it is common to ferment Mourvèdre with the stems, the grapes usually go through a crusher/destemmer in New World regions such as a California due to the harsher, green tannins that are more typical of the stems in those regions. While the wine can be stored in oak barrels, it often does not absorb oak flavours as well as other varieties (such as Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon) so it is often stored in neutral oak or large format barrels.
In many regions of the world, Mourvèdre is often blended with other varieties such as Grenache and Syrah in the "GSM" blends of Rhône, Australia and the United States. In these blends, Mourvèdre often provides colour, fruit and some tannic structure to complement the fruity Grenache and elegant Syrah. In Provence and Rhône it also sometimes blended with Cinsault and Carignan as part of both red table wines and rosé. In Australia, the variety is sometimes used in fortified port-style wines.
According to wine expert Jancis Robinson, in favourable vintages Mourvèdre can produce highly perfumed wines with intense fruit flavours and notes of blackberries and gamy or meaty flavours. Oz Clarke notes that some examples of Mourvèdre may come across as faulted in their youth with "farmyard-y" and strong herbal flavours. As the wine ages, more earthy tertiary aromas may develop before becoming more leather and gingerbread aroma notes.
In both Old and New World wine regions, Mourvèdre is a popular grape to be used in rosé winemaking. These wines can be made as a dedicated rosé where the skins are allowed only a brief period of skin contact (a few hours or a single day) before they are pressed or as saignée where some of the juice destined for a red Mourvèdre is "bled off" during fermentation creating two separate wines - a darker, more concentrated red wine and the lighter rosé.
Alternative Names: Monastrell, Mataro, Esparte, Etrangle-Chien