Old vines on steep terraces, Languedoc

29th October 2018

We don’t have chilly, grey, wet and windy autumns here in Singapore, but if we had, my suggestion against the seasonal gloom would be a glass of red wine made from Grenache. Few if any other wines are as able to capture the sun and warmth of summer.

So, if you’re feeling a bit down or had a bad day in the office, why not open a bottle of Grenache and drink a glass or two of liquefied happiness?


Andreas Balemi 
Wine & Philosophy


Grenache the grape variety

Grenache, or Garnacha as it is known in Spanish, is an old grape variety and has likely originated from Spain, where its earliest mention survives in a document from 1523. It has been present on the Italian island of Sardinia (where it is known as Cannonau) for several centuries and in the 18thcentury reached southern France.

It thrives in warm climates and does not fear heat nor drought. Some lesser wines are excessively alcoholic and taste of overly sweet jam, but careful management of grape maturation in the vineyard and adequate winemaking bring its enormous quality potential to the light. Identification and selection of producers able to find that balance between seductive warmth of character and refreshing subtleness is therefore essential.

Grenache in France …

The best known wine made from Grenache is Châteauneuf-du-Pape in the southern Rhône region of France. While up to 13 different grape varieties are allowed in the blend, it is Grenache which defines the quintessential nature of this wine, with its sweet red fruit, powerful structure, and seductive spicy-herbal notes.

Domaine Duseigneur’s ‘Catarina’ 2016 is a classic Châteauneuf-du-Pape made with old-vine Grenache blended with some Syrah and Mourvèdre: delightful in young age with its concentrated fragrance, it will develop increasingly subtle notes with age.

Grenache is also a main contributor to the red wines of other important appellations of the southern Rhône, in particular Lirac, Gigondas and Vacqueiras, as well as to the regional appellation of Côtes-du-Rhône.

Domaine Duseigneur has been in growing vines in the southern Rhône for five generations. ‘L’Astrolabe’ 2015 is a blend of Grenache and Mourvèdre from Lirac, just across the river from Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Similar in style, it typically combines intense red and black fruit with sweet spice as well as smooth and well-integrated tannins.

Not all Rhône wines are blends: in Mouriesse Vinum’s ‘La Miroenière’ 2015 Grenache plays solo and demonstrates with particular evidence its aromatic spectrum ranging from cherries, herbal fragrances and spicy notes to roast and smoke, all framed by a velvety tannic structure

Grenache, the second most planted grape in France after Merlot, is also found across the Languedoc, where it plays an important role in most appellations, and contributes to intense yet elegant and individual wines in its interplay with the other southern varieties Syrah, Mourvèdre, Carignan and Cinsaut. Not to forget, beyond red wines, Grenache is also responsible for the muscular rosés of Tavel (back in the Rhône) and many of the light, almost transparent pink wines of the Provence.

… Garnacha in Spain

In Spain, Garnacha is grown across the country and has established itself as one of the key varieties alongside Tempranillo, as for example in Rioja, where the two provide respectively flesh and bone to the famous wines of that region. Traditionally, they are characterized by long aging in oak: a more modern style, while respectful of history and tradition, aims at aromatic transparency and freshness. A remarkable representative of this school is the very drinkable MacRoberts & Canals Lanave Tinto 2015, an interesting dialogue between Garnacha and Tempranillo, fresh and juicy, with crunchy aromas of red and black berries, and soft tannins.

Of all the many Spanish appellations where Garnacha makes interesting wines – Emporda, Costers del Segre, Penedes just to name a few – it is in in the southern, arid region Priorat where it reaches its pinnacle, and displays most brilliantly its full potential, often as solo player.

The Balaguer and Cabré families have been based there for generations. In Gratallops, the heart of the region, they produce wines exclusively based on Garnacha such as the Balaguer i Cabré Lluna Viella 2014 and the Ruella 2015combining varietal expressiveness with the uniqueness of Priorat soils and climate.

Long in the shadow of grape varieties considered of higher quality, Grenache has experienced a renaissance and is increasingly fashionable thanks to the focus of a new generation of winemakers worldwide seeking to extracting to the fullest its huge potential.


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