How Grenache has Become a Worldwide Phenomenon

People toasting with Grenache wine
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Grenache thrives around the world thanks to its hearty nature and versatility in blends. It has become synonymous with Rhône-style wines, particularly those from Châteauneuf-du-Pape where the grape reigns supreme. In this storied corner of Southeast France, blends are based primarily on Grenache and often have rounded red fruit flavors and higher-alcohol levels.

Despite being one of Australia’s most widely planted grapes for more than a century, the nation’s winemakers cut ties with Grenache in recent past. There was a time where many producers didn’t even list the grape on the wine labels for fear of scaring away consumers expecting Shiraz. But winemakers are taking a renewed interest this grape’s potential again, especially in McLaren Vale. “The Vale’s” warm summers, mild winters, low humidity and sea breezes make this wine region a prime place to produce exceptional bottles.

In Spain, where this grape is originally from, the grape is called Garnacha. Here, top examples tend be brawny in structure with dark fruit flavors. In Sardinia, the grape is called Cannonau and it’s the flagship red and the wines can range from savory and light-bodied to complex and structured.

Grenache has also found a home in the United States, where California’s Central Coast producers are making the grape their own. While Grenache wasn’t always popular in the region, today, producers are making bottles that are as delicious as the area’s top-shelf Pinot Noir. Grenache also thrives in Washington and parts of Oregon, where it delivers powerful examples of the variety that have reached cult status.

Enjoy some of our top picks from California to Australia.

It's a New Era for Australian Grenache

Top Grenache/Garnacha to look for right now 

No Girls 2016 La Paciencia Vineyard Grenache (Walla Walla Valley); $75, 97 points. Aromas of potpourri, white pepper, charcuterie, crushed flowers, soot and raspberry captivate on the nose. Exuberant and outrageously flavorful on the palate, intense accents of smoked meat and earth arise alongside the fruit. An extremely long finish of earth and flowers completes it. Editors’ Choice. —Sean P. Sullivan

Yangarra 2016 Ovitelli Grenache (McLaren Vale); $50, 95 points. This is the second release of this wine, sourced from the estate’s old bush vines and fermented on skins in large ceramic eggs. The nose is a complex medley of aromas like dried rose petals, brambly red berries, mushrooms, damp earth and what seems like a whole garden of herbs. Texturally, it’s like chalk dust, sliced with laser-sharp acidity and wound with tight-grained tannins. A tightrope walk of power and elegance, the bright, juicy fruit and savory, mineral nuances flow right through to the finish. Drink 2020–2030. Majestic Imports. Cellar Selection. —Christina Pickard

Epiphany 2016 Rodney’s Vineyard Grenache (Santa Barbara County); $32, 93 points. Rich red-fruit aromas meet with rose petals and loamy soil on the concentrated nose of this bottling. Flavors of rose petal and lavender consume the palate, giving depth to the crisp pomegranate and red-currant elements on this lively, textural wine. —Matt Kettmann

Mora & Memo 2017 Nau (Cannonau di Sardegna); $20, 93 points. Smooth, fragrant and utterly delicious, this opens with heady aromas of vineyard dust, blue flower and wild berry. The savory juicy palate doles out succulent Marasca cherry, blackberry, baking spice, star anise and Mediterranean herb alongside lithe polished tannins. It’s not complex, but it’s silky and chock-full of flavor. Wilson Daniels Ltd. Editors’ Choice. —Kerin O’Keefe

Carlisle 2016 Rossi Ranch Grenache (Sonoma Valley); $40, 92 points. Having had to skip a vintage in 2015, this wine is back with a pleasing vengeance, and is cofermented with 15% Mourvèdre. Strawberry, cherry and earth give it a bold, fresh flavorful complexity with depth and surprising freshness. It lingers in cherry cordial and cedar. —Virginie Boone

Pierre Henri Morel 2016 Châteauneuf-du-Pape; $47, 92 points. Ripe black cherry and raspberry are accented by sweet spice and whiffs of banana bread in this Grenache-dominant red. Fine, feathery tannins mark the finish. Full bodied and opulent, it’s already approachable but has enough concentration to improve through 2026 and hold further. Saranty Imports. —Anna Lee C. Iijima

Robert Oatley 2018 G-18 Grenache (McLaren Vale); $20, 92 points. This wine offers plush, brambly cherry and blackberry aromas, alongside clove, dried flower and warm stone accents. The palate has a similar vibe, with rounded, plump fruit framed by sandy, savory and herbal tannins, running along an earthy, mineral spine. Drink now–2029. Pacific Highway Wines & Spirits. Editors’ Choice. —C.P.

Alto Moncayo 2015 Veraton Garnacha (Campo de Borja); $32, 91 points. Aromas of olive and earthy berry fruits battle for air against heavy oak that smells chocolaty. A thick, blocky palate is tannic and intense, while flavors of brawny black plum and wild berries are backed by oaky chocolate and peppercorn notes. A blackened finish has a grape skins feel and is seared by spice. Drink through 2030. MundoVino–Winebow. Cellar Selection. —Michael Schachner

Published on September 18, 2019
Topics: Wine and Ratings


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