This article was first published in The Irish Times, Saturday 17th September, 2022
It is one of the most widely planted grapes, capable of producing high-quality wines, so you might expect it to be celebrated worldwide. Yet, until recently, Grenache, or Garnacha, was seen as a source of cheap everyday wines. It is only over the past decade that things have changed.
The Spanish claim Garnacha as theirs, although it is widely planted in the southern Rhône and Languedoc where it is a big ingredient in blends, the most famous being Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
Garnacha likes sun and a dry climate to ripen fully. It has thin skins and so is generally pale in colour, with light tannins. It can have high levels of alcohol, giving it a sensation of sweetness even though it is dry. It has travelled to other warm regions, including Australia and South Africa.
In Spain, it took a small group of winemakers, including the duo from Commando G featured here, to rediscover the potential of Garnacha. The granitic soils of the mountainous Sierra de Gredos region are responsible for some sensational wines, usually made from gnarled, ancient untrained vines. Fragrant and ethereal, the wines are often compared with Pinot Noir. Producers in Australia and South Africa are now also making far brighter, more elegant wines. As well as the wine featured here, look out for the Willunga 100 McLaren Vale Grenache (€20) and John Duval’s Plexus (€37-€40) a masterful blend, both from independents.
Other regions in Spain, such as Calatayud and Campo de Borja, produce large quantities of generous gluggable warming wines; perfect for drinking alongside rich stews on those cooler autumnal evenings.
As suggested above, powerful Garnacha partners rich stews, braises, daubes as well as vegetarian tomato and bean casseroles well. However, the lighter more elegant style goes well with cauliflower or macaroni cheese, as well as pork dishes.
Tesco’s Finest Old Vine Selection Garnacha 2019, Campo de Borja
Full-bodied and rounded with plum and dark cherry fruits. Enjoy with a bean and tomato stew (with or without chorizo).
Yalumba Barossa Bush Vine Grenache 2019, Samuel’s Collection
Enticing, sweet, ripe red cherries and strawberries with a savoury touch. Roast pork or a miso roast aubergine.
La Bruja de Rozas 2020, Commando G, Sierra de Gredos
A perennial favourite; elegant, juicy, ripe raspberry and strawberry fruits with a lovely lively thread. A lightly spicy tagine would be a good match.
Momento Grenache Noir 2019, Western Cape
Exquisite delicate rose petal aromas, piquant, ripe red cherry fruits and refined tannins. Try it with porchetta or cauliflower cheese.