Meet the Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde of the vine family - Grenache.
Treat it mean (no water, harsh pruning, hot weather, no prospect of retirement) and you get a tiny crop that can give wine of real concentration and character ... bursting with forest berries, tobacco, and liquorice.
Lavish it with irrigation and let it grow wildly and you can be left with an ocean of jammy, thin red that's close to rosé.
Grenache rode a wave of popularity in the first five decades of the twentieth century – when fortifieds ruled the roost and it was perfect for tawny port. The 1956 'grape census' reveals it was the mostly widely planted red in Australia ahead of Shiraz and Mataro (Mourvedre). It's still No.1 worldwide.
Thanks in part to the Vine Pull Scheme of 1987, Grenache plantings in Australia have nose-dived and it is rarely seen as a solo act, but more usually on a triple bill with Shiraz and Mourvedre known as a 'GSM' ... also both native to the southern Rhône.
Yet because Grenache predates many of the more fashionable grapes in Australia the vines are seriously old and deeply rooted (in a good way). Yields from many of those vines are so low as to be almost uneconomical, yet the quality of the fruit inspires winemakers in McLaren Vale and the Barossa Valley to produce wines with a character and soul that could make you weep for the hectares of old vines lost ... and are stunning with rich foods like wild-mushroom risotto.
Bright red hue with sweet, ripe berry and white pepper flavor.
Wines to Try
XV du Président, Chapoutier La Croix des Grives, El Bombero
Rhône, Languedoc, Rioja, Maury
Grenache Noir, Garnacha, Granacha, Cannonau
- Grenache is the world's third-most cultivated black grape variety after Cabernet and Merlot.
- Grenache also makes wonderfully fruity rosés and is used in the lusciously rich, fortified wines of Maury.
- If you like Grenache, you might also like: Côtes-du-Rhône reds - most have a high percentage of Grenache.