Grenache is one of the world’s most widely planted red grape varieties, yet one of the least recognized by many consumers. Grenache is known as a late-ripening grape, which makes it prone to higher sugar levels, therefore alcohol levels in the 14% to 15% range and higher are common. Because of the late-ripening nature of the grape it is almost exclusively grown in warmer, arid, and Mediterranean or like-climates.
Much like Zinfandel grown in California, Grenache is very fruit-forward, soft on the palate and almost liqueur-like. On its own Grenache usually has a bright purple or magenta color with aromas and flavors of raspberry and cherry liqueur. The grape can also have an herbal component that the French often call “garrigue”.
Grenache is mainly found in Spain where it is called Garnacha, and in Southern France, particularly the in Rhône Valley. It is also commonly found in Australia, and also on the Italian island of Sardinia where it is called Cannonau. Many warmer climate areas in California and Washington State are beginning to bottle this grape as a single-varietal and in Rhône-styled blends.
Due to the light tannic structure and low acidity of the grape, Grenache is often best expressed in blended red wines such as Cotes-du-Rhône, Gigondas, and Vacqueryas and is in a starring role in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, in the southern Rhône Valley of France. It is on occasion bottled alone in this area, but this is usually the exception rather than the rule. In Spain it's often bottled on its own or in blends with other grapes like Tempranillo, in regions such as Rioja, Montsant, and Priorat. In Australia the grape can often be seen bottled on its own or in a typical blend that is often called “GSM”, which stands for Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre.