Garnacha: The Workhorse Grape

Very few grapes are as versatile as Garnacha. It is a beautiful blending grape widely revered for its contribution to Rhone Valley wines. It is known as a “blue zone” wine for the health benefits it contributes to the centurions living in Sardegna, and it is believed by some to be the oldest grape in the world. A grape like Garnacha certainly deserves a day of recognition. This article recaps my #GarnachDay celebration as well as wine review tasting notes of five lovely Garnachas.

Garnacha is THE grape of the Mediterranean. It is grown in eastern Spain (its birthplace), southern France, Corsica, Sardegna, southern Italy, Sicily, Croatia and Greece. Furthermore, Garnacha is also grown in South Africa, Australia and the United States. Garnacha is truly a global grape! Today, Garnacha is posed to share the stage as a single varietal, ready to take its place amongst Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Carmenere, and Malbec. There are five Protected Designations of Origin located in the areas of Spain where Garnacha originated. These five regions are unique and diverse in their terroir, though each providing the hot, dry climate and well-drained soil Garnacha needs to thrive, and have partnered with the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture and the European Union to insure the high quality of these wines as well as share information on the high quality mono-varietal wines.

grenache-noir-grapesGarnacha (also known as Grenache and Cannonau in Italy) is deceptively lighter red in the glass but delivers bold flavors of black cherry, raspberry, and cherry, often with spice notes of anise and cinnamon, along with tobacco and orange rind. As the wine ages it can also develop flavors of leather and tobacco. “Garnacha is not a difficult grape to grow, but it is highly sensitive to variations in terroir and requires specific conditions and care to produce its best wines.” It is not easy to produce as a single varietal Garnacha but as such it can be quite good; often it is blended with other grapes to add its ripe, aromatic and fruity aromas to other grapes with more tannins or color. As a white wine Garnacha is one of my favorite single varietals. It is often mineral driven complimented by white fruits and touch of grassy notes with round acidity. As a rosé Garnacha offers candied red fruit on the nose with soft expressions of red berries and herbs on the palate, a refreshing summer staple. Please visit the Wines of Garnacha web site to learn more about this wonderful grape.

I was blessed to participate in a Snooth virtual tasting in honor of #GarnachaDay. The event was hosted by the esteemed Laura Maniec, Master Sommelier, owner Corkbuzz, and friend of Snooth, along with Christy Canterbury, Master of Wine. We tasted five Garnachas, all excellent value, crafted in a modern style that really delivered. I encourage you to find these wines.

img_89112015 Cellars Unio Clos Dalina Garnacha Blanca, Montsant, Spain: This 100% Garnacha blanca poured a soft gold into the glass; delicate aromas of white peaches and nectarines, pineapple, and jasmine tickle the nose; creamy on the palate with sharp lime zest to round out the flavors, clean and refreshing with balanced acidity and a crisp finish; no oak, 12.5% ABV; SRP $9

 

img_89152013 La Miranda de Secastilla Blanca: This 100% Garnacha blanca poured a bright yellow with green hues into the glass; a pleasingly aromatic wine with a firm lime peel foundation with notes of citrus juice, white stone fruit, fresh picked flowers, grassy notes, and a nice chalky minerality; penetrating acidity on the palate with a slight nuttiness, vibrant mouth-coating wine with a long, tart finish; 4 months in French oak add a depth and texture to this wine; 13.5% ABV; SRP $14

img_89122014 Castillo de Monseran Garnacha, Carinena, Spain: This 100% Garnacha poured a vibrant ruby into the glass; the nose was filled with ripe berry aromas of blackberries, blueberries, and black raspberries, along with violets, milk chocolate, and faint notes of dusty earth and savory herbs; the palate rounds out with ripe plums and more chocolate; rich and juicy on the palate with soft acidity and tannins; lacks depth and texture but crafted in an easy drinking style enjoyed by many; a ripe wine crafted for immediate consumption; no oak; 12.5% ABV; SRP $10.00

img_89132015 Altovinum Evodia Old Vines Garnacha, Calatayud, Spain: This 100% Garnacha poured a deep, almost opaque ruby into the glass; rich nose of dark fruit red fruit including plums, cherries, and raspberries, along with spice notes of cinnamon, chocolate, rose petals and a hint of tobacco; silky texture on the palate with an elegant mouth-feel and lots of spice on the finish; a nice textural wine considering no oak was used; round acidity and integrated tannins; another wine to drink young yet more sophisticated; 15% ABV, deceptive; SRP $10.99

img_89142014 Bodegas Aragonesas Coto de Hayas Garnacha Centenaria, Campo de Borja, Spain: This 100% Garnacha poured a light ruby with a slight scarlet hue; vibrant aromas of black cherry, plums, red and black raspberries play second to the earthy notes of anise, cinnamon, tobacco and a lingering scent of orange rind; less juicy on the nose yet quite juicy on the palate, lively notes of crushed violets and chocolate add to the depth of fruit and earth flavors; rich and round on the palate with crushed velvet texture; this one was a crowd pleaser last year often mistaken for a NV Cab; the 2014 vintage follows in those footsteps; the smoky notes are still evident without the damp tobacco leaves in this vintage; the 4 months of French oak really adds depth of flavors and textures to this pleasing wine; medium body, well balanced acidity and tannins that do not take over; 14.5% ABV; SRP $15

Each of these wines was unique, expression and individual. Garnacha is known to be the most versatile grape in the world and I concur. If you like old world wines there are Garnachas for you. If you like new world wines there are Garnachas for you. If you like a wine to sip and enjoy there are Garnachas for you. If you like a wine that is classically food friendly there are Garnachas for you. Garnacha is a like your favorite Labrador, it is friendly, easy to get along with and pleases everyone. So don’t wait till next #GarnachaDay to enjoy this wonderful wine, make it a part of your weekly wine enjoyment immediately!

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Be sure to join Snooth for their next virtual tasting as they celebrate one of my favorite wine regions: Lodi! Head to Snooth to RSVP for the Lodi wine event on Wednesday, September 28!

What is your favorite expression of Garnacha?

My Song Selection: I felt these were very modern expression of Garnacha so I am pairing them with a modern song. They are great value wines crafted to deliver upon opening. Perfect to enjoy any day of the week so grab a few bottles for fall cuisine enjoyment!

Get your own bottle of Garnacha and let me know what song you pair with it. Cheers!

6 comments

  1. So I’ve had a crush on Grenache for years… lately we’ve been having more Spanish Garnacha and the crush grows deeper. I don’t believe I’ve had the Italian vatietal, Cannonau, have you?

    I can’t resist a plate of olives and a bottle of Garnacha after a bit of breathing time. Just gorgeous!

    Looking forward to Lodi! Cheers, and thank you!

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