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The Facts about Grenache

Grenache is a wonderful Grape that orginated in SpainGrenache is a Spanish Grape by origin and is called Granacha there.  However, many wine drinkers tend to associate Grenache with the Southern Rhone Region of France where it forms the back bone to many excellent Rhone blends.

Grenache is not usually used as a single varietal or at percentages of 85% or higher and certainly is not often billed as a varietal, in other words you won't often see bottles of nice wines labeled Grenache.  Unfortunately this is because Grenache can make pail, high alcohol wines that are often dilute in flavor.

It does not have to be that way though, under the right circumstances Grenache can make wonderful wines that are deeply colored and have velvety texture and fruity aromas and flavors suggestive of raspberries, currants and cherry.

The two biggest factors in producing an excellent Grenache are the age of the vines and the balance of the tannins.  It is also usually helpful to apply another wine blend even in a small quantity.  Almira, Los Dos Old Vines is a great example of this balance.

Balancing the tannins is accomplished by the winemaker during the process and is really about allowing the skins to remain in the juice long enough to allow for the deep red color and flavors to be contributed but not so long as to contribute too much tannin.  While strait forward this process is really an art form and perhaps why so few wine makers feature a Grenache as a stand alone wine.

The age of the vines is another factor that only time can take care of.  Young Grenache vines typically produce massive yields of more then 10,000 tons per acre (this is double a typical 4-7 tons for a variety like Cabernet Sauvignon).  When vines produce high yields grapes are less complex and less flavorful.  As young Grenache vine mature their yields decline, by 12 years of age they are thick and gnarled like a small twisted oak tree and by 20 years of age they begin producing much more complex and interesting wines.

Grenache is beginning to really take off in Australia, while Grenache has a long history in Australia, it is only over the past decade or so that the variety has received the recognition that it deserves. While it is regarded as a classic variety by many writers it is an 'alternative varietal' in Australia, not least because few wine drinkers know much about it.

This grape variety is widely planted in South Australia, particularly in the Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale wine regions. It is a versatile variety which can be used as a straight varietal wine, it makes very good rose and is used as blending material, particularly with Shiraz and Mourvedre. In fact the so called GSM blends are becoming a signature Barossa/Mclaren Vale style, challenging the dominance of straight Shiraz.

The reality is while not the most common varietal wine Grenache is the most widely planted grape in the world.  Mainly because of how hardy the vine and its' grape are tolerating both heat and drought well and still producing healthy yields.

 

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