Grenache, or garnacha as it is known in Spain, is one of the most widely planted grape varieties. It has a humble reputation and does not quite have the prestige of wines made from cabernet sauvignon or pinot noir. It often plays a supporting role in wines, where it is used as a component in a blend.
Grenache may lack the elegance or refinement of a pinot noir or the angular structure of a cabernet sauvignon, but it is not shy in personality. It is capable of delivering a bold, juicy, wine that delivers immediate pleasure.
The grape is a late ripening variety and is suited to warm, dry climates. The largest plantings of the grape are found in France, where it exists predominantly in the southern Rhone Valley and Languedoc-Roussillon and is one of the 13 permitted varieties for the famed Chateauneuf-du-Pape wines.
In Spain, grenache is found in wines from Priorat and Navarra. Grenache was one of the first grape varieties to find their way to Australia more than 200 years ago, where it was used to make fortified wines. Nowadays, in southern Australia, grenache, along with shiraz and mourv?dre, is used for the GSM blend. That the grape produces high yields also makes it a popular choice for low-priced jug wines from California.
This grape produces a variety of styles from dry red and ros? to fortified wines. It has a thin skin and produces wines that are deep ruby coloured, but with a lighter hue than wines such as syrah. Flavours range from ripe berry fruit, plums, raspberries to spice. On the palate it is bold and full-bodied. Acid levels are low and tannins are soft.
As the variety ripens later, it accumulates high levels of sugar, which is converted to higher levels of alcohol. Grenache usually delivers 14 per cent and above, making it useful in adding body and alcohol in a wine blend. Fortified wines from Banyuls in the south of France, for example, are made from grenache. These wines offer good value and are capable of ageing for several decades, developing rich, nutty flavours.
Grenache plantings are slowly decreasing, with reduced plantings in Spain, for example. In Australia, it is slowly being replaced by shiraz and cabernet sauvignon. Grenache's star, however, is not falling. The variety is capable of making serious wines with the potential for long-term ageing. Chateauneuf-du-Pape is still considered to be a classic example of grenache-based wines, and Priorat has become a trendy wine region with a track record of producing top quality.
Rolf Binder Heinrich GSM 2006, HK$250, www.altayawines.com
Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2008, HK$465, www.pontiwinecellars.com.hk
Alvario Palacios San Martin 2004, HK$740, www.connoisseur-wines.com.hk