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Updated: Sep 18, 2023

In this blog post, we look at one of the most important red wine grapes in the world: Grenache - still number 5 in the worldwide ranking of black varieties. Here you can read why this variety should be called Garnacha, why its cultivation area is declining, although it should be a winner in times of climate change. Which famous wines are made from Grenache and, of course, how you can recognise a Grenache in the glass!*

Grenache in figures: There are currently around 150,000 hectares worldwide - this makes it the 7th most successful grape variety in the world, and 5th if we are talking about red varieties only (as of 2016). The largest area under vines is in France, with Spain in second place. Italy follows at a great distance, especially Sardinia. In the New World, the variety has found a niche in the USA and Australia, but does not play a major role in terms of volume. In Australia, however, some ancient vineyards produce remarkable qualities.

Grenache historically: It is most probably that the variety originates from Spain, where it is known as Garnacha Tinta - so historically, this name would be more appropriate. Nonetheless, Garnacha is also a tradition in Sardinia, which was under Spanish rule for a long time in the Middle Ages. Here, the variety is called Cannonau and is indeed the most important red variety on the island. For a long time, Garnacha or Grenache was an important variety of the Spanish and French Mediterranean. But in recent years, the area under cultivation has declined sharply: as recently as 1990, Grenache was the most planted red variety in the world! Where does this solid downward trend come from? After the European wine countries, above all the vast regions of Languedoc in France and La Mancha in Spain, produced too much wine for which there was no market, efforts were made in the 2000s to drain this literal wine lake. Among other things, the grubbing-up of superfluous vineyards was promoted - and within a few years, thousands and thousands of hectares of Grenache disappeared from the scene. This decline continues today - but perhaps there is also an opportunity in it: where the mass disappears, real quality remains!

Famous wines from Grenache: That Grenache can produce top wines is shown by the firm roots of the variety in some of the world's most famous appellations: Châteauneuf-du-Pape cannot do without Grenache, and on the steep slopes of Priorat, ancient Garnacha vines produce wonderful wines. The vine also contributes to many Riojas. Outside the top segment, Grenache also has a firm place in the fruit-driven entry-level wines of the Rhône Valley and is also behind the soft, full-bodied Rosados from Navarra.

Grenache in the vineyard: This variety needs a warm climate and copes well with heat and drought so that Grenache can withstand climate change. Grenache buds early, which makes late frosts a risk. The grapes have relatively thin skin and tend to store a lot of sugar. And: Garnacha also comes in white (Garnacha Blanca) and rosé (Garnache Roja) varieties.

Grenache in the glass: Because of the thin skin, Grenache is usually only of medium colour intensity and red fruits mainly characterise the aroma. High-quality wines also show dark fruit notes and spicy aromas. Intense secondary aromas from barrel ageing are relatively rare - winemakers proceed carefully during ageing to preserve the varietal aroma. In mature wines, tertiary aromas of dried fruit and leather develop. The variety shows on the palate moderate acidity, medium tannin, but powerful alcohol amount. Of course, exceptions always prove the rule - if the grapes grow in arid areas, they can produce more tannin, for example. And the lower the yield, the higher the acidity.


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