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Grenache

by Staff Writer - B. Scottenberg | July 03, 2011

Grenache wines are full of flavor, fruity and sometimes have hints of spice. Grenache has distinct flavors of blackberry, cherry, currant and raisin. Grenache wines tend to be a lightly colored pale red color with a flavor of sweetness, and are often made with blends from other grape varieties. The aromas of the Grenache are very powerful, including menthol, licorice and black pepper. Grenache is usually blended with another variety of wine, such as Syrah, because of its high alcohol content (usually more than 15 percent).

Grenache Grapes

Grenache grapes are a blue/black color. The Grenache grape is relatively low in both pigment and malic acid (a dicarboxylic acid that is found in many sour or tart-tasting foods) and oxidizes easily. The Grenache grape variety is a sweet grape and is one of the most widely planted in the world. On their own, Grenache grapes makes fleshy, heady, very fruity wines in their youth. They tend to age rapidly, showing tawny colors and are prone to oxidation after only a relatively short time in a bottle. Grenache grapes resist heat and are able to tolerate limited rainfall. It is the most planted red grape in Spain, and is popular in many other European countries as well. It seems to have originated in Spain, but has long since been spread to all areas of the world. In France, most Grenache comes from the Rhone region, and it is also popular in California and Australia. There is also a white version of the Grenache grape, Grenache Blanc, but it is far less popular. In France, Grenache is used in making red and Rose wines. In Spain, Grenache is known as Garnacha Tinta and is also widely planted. Australia has extensive plantings of Grenache and has been very successful making full-bodied Grenache-dominated red blends. In the United States, Grenache is grown in California where it is almost exclusively used as a blending grape for Rose wines. Grenache is not known for producing wines that age well over a long period of time. They are usually best consumed when they are young.

Grenache grapes are an abundant producer of fruit. They will regularly alternate a crop of 8 to 10 tons per acre one year and 14 to 16 tons the next year. The vine is very sturdy and woody, offers itself well to head or spur pruning, and survives arid and drought conditions better than less vigorous vines. Cool and damp conditions can cause "deadarm" disease (deep-seated wood rot of the arms or trunk of the grapevine) and its compact clusters are quite prone to rot.

Grenache has never achieved a premium reputation as some other red wine varietals. This may be due to its ordinary abundance and partly due to its hardiness in warmer climates that are generally considered to produce lower quality wines. There is a group of California wineries who are marketing themselves as the Rhône Rangers (www.rhonerangers.org), and they are committed to raising both the quality and profile of Grenache wines and other lesser-known grape varieties.

Food Pairings

Grenache wine pairs well with hearty meals such as steaks, burgers, grilled meats, sausages and highly spiced dishes. Grenache should be served at 64F and should normally be drunk within 5 years of production.

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