Hello there wine lovers!
With the 18th of September being International Grenache day, what would be better than giving you a little bit of insight on this versatile grape variety?
Grenache is grown through-out the major European wine countries; France, Spain and Italy.
It is also popular in the United States, and also here in Australia.
You may recall when I did a Grenache wine write up, that Grenache is a grape that loves torture. This is because Grenache can withstand high heats and drought weather. It has a late ripening period, you can leave the grape one the vine and let it shrivel down exposing explosive sweetness.
However, depending on where in the world you might be, Grenache can be very different. In France, the “old wine” world, this wine displays a lot of herbaceous characters, like dried oregano and tobacco. In Australia, our Grenache displays a lot of sweet red fruits, cherry, raspberry and strawberry. We also can get a lot of spice in our Grenache like the Spanish do, as we tend to harvest our grapes later on in the harvesting period giving it gamey and pepper qualities. We are fortunate enough to have both old and young vines that give off very different characters. Young vines give us that sweet red fruit, whilst the older vines transmit more of that terrior soil, dark fruit with spice. Finally, we have 2 distinct regions for Grenache in South Australia. The Barossa and McLaren Vale. Barossa valley gives us very full fruit intensity and jammy Grenache’s. While in contrast, McLaren Vale Grenache embodies dryer qualities and more spice and richness.
On the wine scale of colour and texture, it produces a light, semi translucent colour in the glass, and is classified as a medium bodied wine, although here in Australia, we start to border on those full-bodied qualities.
I touched on the versatility of this wine; it loves torture, but it also makes beautiful soft rose` wines, and then is often used for blending in wines too. If grapes were pimps, this would be the grand-daddy of them all. It just knows how to work and lift a wine’s profile. The infamous wine critic Oz Clarke once said; “If you want to add sex to the wine, throw in some Grenache.” How very true. The sweetness on the nose just lifts the likes of Shiraz, deep fruit and oak or Mourvedre with its earthy qualities lifts these flavours and characters with its rich fruit intensity.
Grenache history in Australia
In 1832 James Busby brought over a clone from Perignan (Rhone Valley France) However, It was the famous Dr Christopher Rawson Penfold (Founder of Australia’s most Iconic Wine company) that planted Grenache in South Australia in 1844. The market for Grenache boomed in this state, and as I stated earlier, it was the Barossa and McLaren Vale where this variety took off.
Grenache was used in the production of fortified wines, thus, it was used for making port. Secondly, it was a component of many dry red wines; AKA GSM’s and other blends, but went under the name of Claret. It was not common to put Grenache on the label of the dry red wines. But because it was easy to grow and loved our Australian climates, it was one of the most common grape varietals here right up to the 1960s, when Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon started taking over these were premium wine varieties and it nearly brought the total downfall of Grenache.
Hence, this led to many of the Grenache vineyards getting ‘ripped up” and replanted with these other grape varietals in the 1980s due to the Australian Wine Industry believing that our country was “over producing” red wine and with the popularity of Grenache falling, this led to other varieties getting planted in its place.
If we move to the current day, Grenache is making its return, thanks to its ease of care and simplicity to grow. Most new comers to the industry plant Grenache as their alternative red grape for this reason. We are starting to rekindle our love for wines again and we are looking for new alternative wines to try. When you’re out and about this weekend or just sitting down relaxing, open up a bottle of Grenache, it has one hell of a history here in Australia, and around the world and delivers such different characters and flavours depending on where you source your bottle from. Hey, why not have more than one from both of our prominent Grenache regions. It is the weekend to do so.
The SA Wine Guy