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Grenache, Garnacha, or Cannonau

14 September 2017

Any idea what to drink at dinner tomorrow?

It is International Grenache Day tomorrow, occurring annually on the third Friday of September started by the Grenache Symposum from 2010. So, grab one of your choice of the many styles of Grenahce and share the enjoyment with many other parts of the world...

Grenache grapes are sweet, thin-skinned giving wines that are high in alcohol and are full-bodied with soft tannins. Therefore, in most places where it is grown, it is blended with other varieties with higher tannin, such as Carignan, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Cinsault and Tempranillo.

Classic Grenache or Grenache-dominated wines have red fruit flavours, such as strawberry and raspberry, and hints of white pepper, which develop into flavours of leather, tar and toffee as the wine age.

Originated in Spain where it is called Garnacha, Grenache is mostly planted in France (particularly Southern Rhône, Languedoc and Provence). As for other international varieties, Grenache-based wines are more known for their region names in the Old World, such as Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Côtes-du-Rhône and Gigondas in France, and Campo de Borja and Priorat in Spain, where it is very likely that you won't see "Grenache" or "Garnacha" on the labels.

The style? The Rhône is slightly cooler region often making wines with paler colour, more finesse and less alcohol, expressing dried red cherry fruit with smoky herbal notes like oregano and tobacco. The Catalyud and Priorat in Spain are warmer resulting in Garnacha wines with alcohol levels reaching above 15%, showing more body and liquorice-like spice. Grenahce is also the most planted grape in the Sardinia, Italy, where it is called Cannonau, which in its modern form is a bold, dry, spicy red that has dried herb flavours, terrific on its own but also sometimes being blended with Cabernet Sauvignon.

New World Grenache wines are usually varietally labelled. Low-yielding old vine Grenache makes devastatingly great wines in South Australia, particularly McLaren Vale, where the wines are intensely flavoured with dark fruit aromas and soft, ripe tannins. Californian Grenahce is both fruit-forward and aromatic with crisp acidity. In the place the Old World herbal notes, there are liquorice and floral notes.

In France, Rasteau (in the Rhône), and Banyuls, Maury and Riversaltes (in Roussillon) are all fortified dessert wines called “vin doux naturel” made with Grenache. Stylistically comparable with Ruby or Tawny Ports although generally sweeter and lower in alcohol, these VDNs are made by adding high-strength (95% abv) grape spirit to a partially fermented must to make a strong (15-20%) sweet wine. Some are bottle young; others see some oak-ageing, which in some cases leads to deliberately oxidised wines showing rancio flavours of caramel, coffee and walnut.

Provence and Languedoc-Roussillon also produce dry style rosés using Grenache which shows strong strawberry aromas with hints of honeydew, rose petal, celery and orange peel.

You may also look for Grenache Blanc, the white mutation of Grenache Noir.

With all these above, have you made up your mind for tomorrow?

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