Yes, Garnacha and Grenache are names for the same grape variety. Garnacha is the Spanish name, while Grenache is the French name for this red wine grape that is widely planted across the world.
What is Garnacha/Grenache?
Garnacha/Grenache is one of the world’s most widely planted red wine grape varieties. It is a bold, fruit-forward variety that produces medium to full-bodied red wines with rich berry fruit flavors and soft tannins. Some key facts about Garnacha/Grenache include:
- It is an old grape variety that originated in Spain several hundred years ago.
- It is the dominant red grape used in various Spanish wines including Rioja, Priorat, and Garnacha blends.
- In France, it is widely grown in the Rhône Valley where it is a primary component in Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Gigondas wines.
- It is also widely planted in Australia and California.
- The grape vines are vigorous and high-yielding, thrive in hot, dry climates, and can produce large yields.
- Wines are typically fruity, spicy, medium to full-bodied, and moderately tannic.
Garnacha’s Spanish Origins and History
Garnacha has a long history and tradition tied to Spain where it likely originated in the Aragon region in the northeast several hundred years ago. Over centuries, the grape spread to various Spanish wine regions where it became an important variety.
Some key historical facts about Garnacha in Spain include:
- First historical mention is from the late 15th century in Aragon.
- By the 17th century it was established in Navarra, Rioja, and Priorat regions.
- It was the most planted red grape in Spain during the 20th century.
- Primary red grape in wines from Rioja, Priorat, Montsant, Terra Alta, Cariñena.
- Plays supporting roles in wines from Ribera del Duero, Toro, and Jumilla.
The high-yielding and drought-resistant vines thrived in the hot, dry conditions in Spanish wine regions. The grape helped drive the expansion of Spanish wines particularly from Priorat, Rioja and Navarra in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Garnacha-Based Wines of Spain
Here are some of the top Spanish wines that are predominantly or significantly based on the Garnacha grape:
- Rioja – Garnacha is the second most planted grape here after Tempranillo. It can play a role in Reserva and Gran Reserva wines adding fruitiness and body.
- Priorat – One of the prime grapes here often blended with Cariñena and Syrah in powerful, complex reds.
- Navarra – Garnacha is the main red grape producing aromatic, fruited Garnacha-dominant wines.
- Montsant – Full-bodied, powerful wines based on Garnacha, often with Carignan.
- Terra Alta – Garnacha-based wines offering great value.
- Garnacha Blends – Often blended with Tempranillo, Cariñena, Syrah, etc.
Grenache’s Introduction to France
Garnacha was likely introduced to France sometime in the Medieval ages. The exact details are unclear but it was probably brought by pilgrims returning from Spain or through trade networks across the Pyrenees mountains. By the 17th century, it was well established in Languedoc and Roussillon regions. The grape adapted well to the Rhône Valley climate where it became an important variety in southern Rhône wines.
Some key historical facts about Grenache in France:
- First introduced to France sometime in the Middle Ages via pilgrims and trade.
- Well established in Languedoc and Roussillon regions by the mid-1600s.
- Spread to the Southern Rhone region where it thrived.
- Primary red grape variety in Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Gigondas.
- Also used in Provence reds and rosés.
Top French Grenache-Based Wines
Here are several notable French wines that contain significant or dominant amounts of Grenache:
- Châteauneuf-du-Pape – Grenache is typically the main red grape comprising over 70% of the blend.
- Gigondas – Grenache-based wines, often blended with Syrah and other Rhône varieties.
- Vacqueyras – Grenache dominates the blend, minimum 50%, typically blended with Syrah and Mourvèdre.
- Côtes du Rhône – Required to contain at least 40% Grenache.
- Lirac – Blends based on Grenache and Cinsault.
- Minervois La Livinière – Blends incorporating Grenache Noir.
Grenache Around the World
Beyond its traditional strongholds in Spain and France, Grenache has been planted extensively in wine regions around the globe. Its affinity for hot, dry climates make it a natural fit for places like California, Australia and South Africa. Some facts about global Grenache:
- Australia has over 37,000 acres planted, many in Barossa Valley.
- Significant California plantings in Paso Robles, Santa Barbara and Lodi.
- South Africa has old vines planted in Western Cape regions.
- Also grown in Sardinia, Croatia, Mexico, Argentina and Israel.
Notable Garnacha/Grenache-based wines around the world
- Australia – Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale, Grenache-Shiraz-Mourvedre blends
- California – Paso Robles, Santa Barbara, Lodi Old Vine Zinfandels
- South Africa – Western Cape Grenache-based blends
- Sardinia – Cannonau di Sardegna DOC
Tasting Notes and Food Pairings
Here are some common tasting notes and food pairing suggestions for Garnacha/Grenache-based wines:
- Medium to high alcohol levels
- Medium to full body
- Low to moderate acidity
- Moderate tannins
- Rich red fruit notes – strawberry, raspberry, cherry
- Spice, pepper and floral aromas
- Smooth, silky mouthfeel
- Roasts, grilled meats
- Stews, sausages
- Pizza, pasta, tomato-based dishes
- Hard, aged cheeses
Garnacha Grape Characteristics
Here are some key viticultural and sensory characteristics of the Garnacha grape variety:
- Vigorous, high yielding vines
- Compact grape bunches
- Thin-skinned berries
- Late budding and ripening
- Prone to oxidation
- Low tannins in thicker skins
- Thrives in hot, dry climates
- Pale, light red color
- Bright red fruit aromas – strawberry, raspberry, cherry
- Floral, spicy notes
- Soft, low tannins
- Medium to high alcohol
- Smooth, silky mouthfeel
Key Differences Between Garnacha and Grenache
While Garnacha and Grenache are genetically the same grape variety, there can be some subtle differences between the Spanish and French wine styles:
|Native to Spain||Adopted in France|
|Tends to be lower alcohol||Tends to be higher alcohol|
|Brighter acidity||Lower acidity|
|Earthier, herbal notes||Fruit-forward, ripe jam notes|
|Traditional in blend or single varietal||Mostly used in blends|
|Garnacha tintorera has red juice and flesh||Grenache noir has white flesh|
Of course, winemaking techniques and terroir can minimize these differences but generally Spanish Garnacha tends to be lower alcohol, higher acidity and more earthy compared to French Grenache styles.
FAQs about Garnacha and Grenache
Is Grenache the same grape as Garnacha?
Yes, Grenache and Garnacha are the same red wine grape variety. Garnacha is simply the Spanish name while Grenache is used in France and other regions.
Where does Garnacha/Grenache originate?
Garnacha/Grenache likely originated in the Aragon region of Spain several hundred years ago. It later spread to France and then other wine regions.
What’s the difference between Garnacha and Garnacha Tintorera?
Garnacha Tintorera is a separate grape variety that is related to but distinct from Grenache. It has dark red flesh and juice unlike Grenache’s pale flesh.
What wines is Garnacha/Grenache used in?
Some top wines using Garnacha/Grenache include Rioja, Priorat and Garnacha from Spain, Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Gigondas from the Rhone, and G-S-M blends from Australia.
What are the best Garnacha wines?
Some highly regarded Garnacha wines include Alto Moncayo Veraton from Campo de Borja, Clos Erasmus from Priorat, Palacios Remondo La Vendimia from Rioja, and Terroir al Limit Les Tosses from Torroja.
What are the characteristics of Garnacha/Grenache wines?
Garnacha/Grenache wines tend to be medium to full bodied with soft tannins. They have rich red fruit flavors of strawberry, raspberry, cherry, and peppery spice notes.
In summary, Garnacha and Grenache are two names for the same red wine grape variety – Garnacha in Spain and Grenache in France. This variety has a long history in Spain and France and produces medium to full bodied, fruit-forward wines that can be found across the globe today. While the two styles have some differences, they share many flavor characteristics and the versatility to produce outstanding single varietal wines as well as blended wines.