We love Grenache here at Slurp, and what’s not to love? Grenache (aka Cannonau (Italy), Garnacha (Spain), Garnatxa (Spain) and Grenache Noir) is a wine style that tastes warm and fruity with loads of strawberry, spice and the occasional flavour of tobacco and orange peel all working together to teleport the drinker to a more sunny, happy place. And Grenache is one of those grape varieties that lives for those sunny, happy places. Like Cabernet Sauvignon it thrives in these conditions. The Rhone Valley and Spain are its traditional and cultural home but it’s now planted anywhere with a Mediterranean level temperature, covering near enough 500,000 acres worldwide. That is a lot of Grenache in anyone’s language, but why is it so widely planted? Well the answer is that it is a popular grape variety, very popular in fact. Think of some of the big name wines that we all know, Châteauneuf-du-Pape for instance, well it is primarily made from Grenache, and up until recently Grenache was still the most planted grape in Spain, only recently being overtaken by Tempranillo. Let’s not stop there though as Australians, Chileans and South Africans have all adopted this delicious grape variety too.
Grenache is one of the most hardy grapes varieties, it doesn’t need huge amounts of water and is resistant to many diseases that often plague other grape varieties and torment wine-makers. Some vines live over 100 years old and a few of them can still remember a time before the phylloxera (a small aphid vine vampire that sucks out sap) outbreak in the late 19th century. When it comes to the wine-making you may have heard or seen the term ‘Bush Vine’, it is often written on Australian or South African Grenache bottles and it literally means that the vine is left alone and looks like a bush, minimal effort is needed in comparison to trellised, more cultivated pruning styles like the Double Guyot (the classic looking grape vine). The benefit is that a Bush Vine can age for a lot longer and be left to do its stuff. In wine making terms that is a very good thing, it means that the vine will concentrate on focusing much more of it’s energy into reproducing so it grows more fruit (with more concentrated sugars and flavours) and worries less about leaves. Bush vines produce fruit lower to the ground and as Grenache loves sandy or stony soil it works perfectly as a technique. The sun’s warmth bounces off the stone or sand and help to ripen the fruit, the wine-maker can just trim up some of the leaves when necessary while keeping some to help shade the grapes to prevent over-ripening. The sand/stones then retain the day’s warmth so that overnight the grapes don’t get too cold. Grenache is a grape that is often harvested late in the growing season as it often takes longer to ripen, and it needs that ripe fruit so that all the lovely character of warm spice and strawberry come through and develop.
So getting to the point, Grenache will be the ‘in’ grape of 2016. The reason? Well aside from all of the above, it comes down to quality for money. With Grenache you can get the light, fresh strawberry flavours reminiscent of Pinot Noir blended with the spice and cinnamon of Syrah tempered with the acidity and alcohol of a Tempranillo. So it’s a happy stylistic mix of three of the most popular grapes varieties going, but which you don’t have to pay a lot for to get high quality (CNDP excluded). See our current top picks of the Grenache bunch here: