Garnacha, or Grenache as they say in France and much of the New World, is an interesting and versatile grape of Spanish origin. It’s absolutely one of my favorite red wine grapes as it shines in so many applications.
For the sake of brevity I will simply refer to the grape as Garnacha now that we have established that the varietal has more than one name. You got past the Syrah or Shiraz confusion so you’ll survive the Garnacha duel identity just fine.
Garnacha (we are talking about the red varietal – there is also a Garnacha Blanca) is one of the greatest red grapes in my estimation because of its flavors obviously but Garnacha’s flavors change dramatically dependent upon how and where it’s grown.
Garnacha’s flavors range from soft, fruity notes redolent of strawberry and raspberry with sweet herbal accents to wines that are dense with flavors of black plum and cherry with pronounced spice, herbal, and mineral notes. The color, too, ranges from light ruby red to deep garnet. You can plan a meal around Garnacha (it also makes great rosé wines) scaling up the flavors to match increasingly more hearty and flavorful dishes.
Garnacha can and does produce some of the best value red wines that you will ever taste from the Spanish regions of Aragon and Navarra (among others) and of course Côtes du Rhône from the Southern Rhône in France. These wines consistently offer some of the best value for money among reds made anywhere in the world. Learn more about Spanish wines HERE.
Garnacha is also responsible for some of the world’s most serious, collectible, and expensive wines like those made in the Southern Rhône appellation of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, as well as Priorat from Spain’s region of Catalonia. Both of these wines can run you $100 and upwards. Learn more about Rhone wines HERE.
While Garnacha is native to Spain there are actually more acres planted in France. Spain is second in the world concerning total Garnacha average with Italy in third (more on Italian Garnacha in a moment). However, Spain is on the rise again as many Garnacha vineyards were replanted with Tempranillo in the 1980s in Rioja but that trend is being reversed. Many producers are rediscovering that even their Tempranillo based wines are better and more complex with a healthy dose of Garnacha in the mix.
The New World is a good bit behind Europe still regarding Garnacha as the USA has fewer than one-fifth of the acres as does Italy. Australia has even fewer Garnacha vines. It is also whispered that China has started to grow Garnacha with some vigor.
The USA Garnacha has yet to find its center with the glaring exception of Tablas Creek. Tablas Creek has partnered with Château de Beaucastel in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, arguably the most famous wine estate in the region, since 1989. Tablas Creek has managed to create wines that accentuate California fruit with techniques from the Rhône, creating wines that are often the best of both worlds. We at BevX review a selection of wines from Tables Creek each year so please check out our reviews.
There is another California winemaker out of Santa Barbara getting ink for their ostentatiously priced Garnacha wines (running upwards of $500 — ouch) but BevX readers are far too clever to be taken in by the hype.
Italy is becoming a hot-spot for Garnacha especially on the isle of Sardinia (Sardegna) where Garnacha is known as Cannonau. There are a growing number of Italian winemakers and scholars that now believe that Cannonau is actually native to Sardinia but there just is not enough proof at this time to substantiate this claim. Cannonau di Sardegna is the most famous of the Garnacha DOC wines from Italy and the example easiest to find on American store shelves. These wines range typically from the low teen to low $20 range in price. The flavors are often charming and complex with dense cherry notes supported by strawberry, dried herbs, and orange zest. If you have not tried Cannonau di Sardegna seek it our at your favorite wine retailer.
While Garnacha is far from a sleeper variety it does still lack its much due appreciation. Perhaps you could help by sipping more value Garnacha from Spain, France, Italy, or the USA. Garnacha offers such a wide range of flavors and budgets. While value wines from so many famous varieties are often a compromise of flavor Garnacha delivers in all price strata.