What is Grenache Wine?

In the shadow of ever-popular red wines like Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah is a varietal that’s been working hard behind the scenes, unnoticed. 

Grenache is found in most prominent wine regions and contains a unique combination of juicy red fruit, heat from higher alcohol content, bold, peppery spices, and violet bouquet aromas. 

Keep reading to discover more about this ubiquitous wine. 

Best Grenache Food Pairings

Where Does Grenache Come From?

Though you may not have heard of Grenache (also known as Grenache Noir), it is one of the most widely planted grape varietals. It is essential for many red, white, and rosé wines. 

Today, Grenache is most notably grown in Southern Rhône in France, though it is thought to have first originated in Aragon, Spain. Grenache, or Garnacha as it is referred to in Spain, is characterized by its dark red color, thin skin, and high alcohol content. 

Apart from France and Spain, other places where the grape is widely grown include Australia, California’s Central Coast, Israel, North and South Africa, and Italy. In fact, Grenache was once the most famous wine in Australia before Syrah took over in the 1960s. 

Wine Insight: Learn more about Spanish wines here!

With a backstory that places this grape all over the world, we bet you’re dying to discover the iconic tasting notes of this elusive red wine.  

What Does Grenache Taste Like?

Like Pinot Noir, the Grenache grape’s thin skin makes it susceptible to the climate and terroir in which it's grown. Sandy or loose soils yield the best results for revealing Grenache’s subtle flavors. The taste will be much more potent and concentrated when grown in limestone or granite. 

Now onto the signature flavor profile of this delightfully fruity wine. Grenache is ripe with juicy raspberry, strawberry, and black cherry notes. You may also taste spices like black pepper or star anise on the palate, which produce a somewhat licorice flavor. Sometimes more unique flavors like orange rind or herbs are present. Underneath these potent notes lies an undercurrent of violet, lending to Grenache’s floral aromas. 

This medium-bodied wine is bold and complex. While typically dry, Grenache can be found in sweet or semi-sweet forms. Like its rich fruit and spice notes, this red is bold and usually contains higher alcohol levels of 12-15% per volume. 

Now that we know what this wine tastes like let’s move on to how it’s made. 

How is Grenache Made?

Since the Grenache grape requires a long, hot growing season to ripen, patience is essential before harvesting. Once picked, the grapes are pressed, separating the juice from the seeds and skins. They will then undergo maceration, the process of soaking the grape skins in the juice to give the wine its desired hue. The whole mixture is referred to as “grape must.”

If the grape must is left for a longer time, the Grenache will take on its signature, deep ruby color. When the skins are barely left to touch the juice, the result will be a white wine. For rosé, the grapes will only be left in the mixture for a few hours.

Once maceration is complete, the juice is fermented in oak barrels or stainless steel vats. Oak brings out those licorice and orange rind flavors, whereas steel allows the wine to remain lighter, and more aromatic. If the winemaker desires a dry Grenache, fermentation will be allowed to complete. If a sweeter wine is preferred, fermentation will be halted early, leaving more residual sugars behind.

Now that we have a bottle of wine, it’s time to wrap up the wine-producing process and discover the different forms of Grenache.

Grenache Based Wines

Historically, Grenache has most commonly been blended with other grape varieties. However, drinking this wine as a single varietal is becoming increasingly popular. 

Let’s look closely at some of Grenache’s most famous variations!

1.Châteauneuf du Pape

Iconic in Southern Rhône and Côtes du Rhône, Châteauneuf du Pape (translating to "the pope's new castle”) is jam-like with deep berry, plum, and earthy notes. It is known as a GSM blend, which refers to a red wine that's been blended with Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre grapes. Most Châteauneuf-du-Pape has around 80% Grenache, although some wineries use 100%.

As you can see, Grenache Noir is essential for this famous French red blend.

Best Châteauneuf du Pape Food Pairings

With its bold, fruity flavors, Châteauneuf du Pape is best served with hearty dishes like braised lamb, barbecue beef, hamburgers, and mushrooms. 

2. Grenache Blanc

Like Grenache Noir, the golden-hued Grenache Blanc varietal originated in northern Spain, but it's primarily found in France’s Rhône Valley and Languedoc-Roussillon regions today. The grape is actually a mutation of the original Grenache Noir grape. 

With its dry citrus notes, herbal essence, and mineral finish, this rare, full-bodied white wine is often compared to Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, and steel-fermented Chardonnay. However, unlike the previously mentioned, Grenache Blanc is refreshingly low in acidity. But what it lacks in acid, it makes up for in alcohol content, as this white boasts 13-15% alcohol per volume on average. 

When sipping Grenache Blanc, you will likely taste the typical peach, lychee, apricot, citrus, green apple, honeydew, dill, and light star anise notes. If fermented in oak, this wine may taste like buttery, oak-aged Chardonnay. 

Best Grenache Blanc Food Pairings

Try the statement-making Grenache Blanc with herb chicken, shrimp and vegetable tempura, or spicy dishes like those found in Asian and Indian cuisines. 

Wine Insight: Learn more about popular dry white wines here!

3. Grenache Syrah

Perhaps one of the most common Grenache blends that’s been around for centuries, Grenache-Syrah is exactly as it sounds. When these two wines are mixed, they form delightful aromas and flavors of stewed plum, black cherry, blueberry, black olive, spice, and dark chocolate. 

Best Grenache Syrah Food Pairings

Pair the robust, fruit-forward Grenache Syrah with a decadent leg of lamb.

4. Vin Doux Naturel

As old as the Roman Empire, Vin Doux Naturel is a sweet, fortified wine made primarily with Grenache grapes. It boasts a unique blend of plum, raisin, fig, redberry, lemon, peach, hazelnut, coffee, and almond notes. It is considered a specialty of Southern France. 

Best Châteauneuf du Pape Food Pairings

Pair this uniquely flavored wine with goat cheese, decadent chocolate desserts, or savory-sweet dishes like those in Thai or Chinese cuisine. 

How to Serve Grenache

Depending on how long your Grenache has been aged (usually around 5-10 years), it might have a slight sediment from the cork floating around or sulfites, tiny crystals that look like sugar. It’s best to decant this wine for about 30 minutes before serving. Serve Grenache below room temperature (under 68 degrees Fahrenheit/20 degrees Celsius). 

A Nod to Grenache

We’re thankful that Grenache is having its moment in the spotlight after working behind the scenes for so long. 

Shop quality Grenache over at our Wine Shop, where we have an endless selection of red, white, rosé, and sparkling wines.

Stay updated with the latest wine trends at Macy’s Wine Shop Blog!