Guide to Grenache & Garnacha

Most famously used as a part of the Rhône Valley Red Blend from that region in Southern France, Grenache grapes are now increasingly being bottled on their own as a single varietal wine throughout many of the global wine-producing countries and their regions.

These grapes produce light to medium bodied style wines that are characterised by their soft tannins and moderate amounts of acidity, making them wonderful when paired with a variety of food choices.

To gain a quick snapshot of the general flavour profile of these wines, including some of the best food pairing choices, see our graphic below.

Grenache & Garnacha Quick Guide

Grenache or Garnacha?

Grenache is the French spelling for the red grape grown prominently throughout much of Southern France. In Spain, where the grape varietal is also common, it is spelt “garnacha”, making it easy to separate those European wines coming from Spain or France.

Outside of Europe, the grape is commonly just called “grenache”, such as in other prominent growing regions, including the United States and Australia.

Whilst there continues to be a heated debate over whether the grape originated in Spain or France, one thing that we can be sure of is that the grape prefers and thrives in hot and dry climates.

It is in these areas where it is able to attain high levels of sugar and ripeness, meaning it can often be difficult for the winemaker using the grape to keep alcohol levels down.

That being said, grenache grapes produce incredibly flavoursome wines with loads of fruitiness and peppery spice backing, with the grape also being commonly used in the production of rosé and fortified wines.

How do Grenache & Garnacha Wines Taste?

Grenache & Garnacha Flavour Wheel

Depending upon where the grapes used in the wine are produced, grenache-based wines can taste somewhat different to one another.

In slightly more moderate climates, such as the Southern Rhône Valley in France, it can taste moderately acidic, with clear herbal and soft peppery spice notes making their way behind the classic strawberry, cherry, and raspberry flavours usually found.

When grown in warmer climates, such as those found in Spain or South Australia, however, the acidity gets pushed down, with the alcohol levels going up and the fruity and peppery spice flavours taking front and center place in the mouth and on the finish.

In addition to the growing conditions of the grape, it is often the case that grenache-based wines are laid to rest in oak for some time prior to being bottled, adding additional layers of vanilla and other spice flavours.

Depending upon whether you like your wine more fruit-forward and spiced or more complex and fresh, there is a grenache out there to suit almost everyone's taste buds.

Grenache in France

As mentioned previously, grenache has long been the most important grape varietal used in the composition of the famous Rhône Valley Red Blend, from that region in Southern France.

Outside of this region, however, grenache grapes have been planted in other areas of Southern France also, including the Languedoc and Roussillon regions, making it very widespread in terms of its use by French winemakers.

It is most important, however, to focus on those grenache-based wines coming out of the Southern Rhône as these represent perhaps the best examples of grenache wine from France.

Rhône Valley Grenache

In the southern Rhône region in France, grenache-based wines are produced to an exceptional standard of quality, although they are often blended alongside syrah and mourvedre to form the classic Rhône Valley Red Blend.

Rhône Valley Wine Region Map

As the area is situated closer to the more moderately warm areas bordering the Mediterannean sea, the grapes grown there are often slightly lower in their levels of acidity, although higher in their levels of sugar, than the grapes produced by their northern counterparts.

That typically results in the wines from the area being of stronger fruit and peppery spice character and levels of alcohol, though not to the same extent as those grapes cultivated in warmer climates such as the Barossa Valley.

To learn about the wines from the southern Rhône be sure to check out this site, which explains a lot more about the wines from that area and more.

Garnacha in Spain

The Rioja wine-producing region in northern-central Spain is just as famous for producing exceptional examples of grenache, referred to locally as garnacha, wine as it is for tempranillo-based wines.

Often, the wines of these two grapes are blended together, alongside others, with the final product sometimes spending considerable amounts of time in oak prior to bottling.

Outside of Rioja, garnacha is heavily cultivated in the slightly more north-eastern region of Navarra, which is a little less famous than the more well known Rioja region.

Nevertheless, the wines from this area are incredible examples of cooler climate garnacha-based wines that possess slightly higher amounts of acidity, making them perfect examples of complex wines with balanced amounts of fruit flavour and peppery spice character.

The final area in Spain that is worth mentioning in the production of garnacha wines is the small and often overlooked area of Catalonia, a relatively small state close to the border between France and Spain in the north-eastern corner of the country.

Here, garnacha grapes are used to craft wines of great complexity as they are often blended alongside a couple of other popular grape varietals, including merlot, syrah, and cabernet sauvignon.

Whilst the Navarra and Catalonia wine-producing regions do produce amazing examples of garnacha-based wines, most bottles of Spanish garnacha found outside of the country will be those coming primarily from the Rioja region.

For this reason, it is most important to focus on this area when studying the grape varietal as it exists in this European state.

If you want to find out more about the wines from Navarra and Catalonia, head to this site, which offers up a bit more information about the wines from these areas.

Rioja Garnacha

Although perhaps more famous for producing red wines using the tempranillo grape varietal, the winemakers in the Rioja region in Spain are also fond of making garnacha-based wines as well.

Rioja Wine Region Map

Many of the examples produced there are known to be quite fruit-forward and more medium-bodied in their style, which comes as a direct result of the often warmer climate that exists there, particularly in the Rioja Oriental subregion.

In addition to the climate, winemakers in the area are also fond of placing their wines in oak barrels for ageing, sometimes for as long as two or three years, resulting in wines with added layers of flavour, often including vanilla, clove, and sometimes leather.

When looking for lighter and more acidic examples of garnacha wines from this region be sure to check the label for those bottles coming from the Rioja Alavesa or Rioja Alta subregions.

These two areas sit further up in the mountainous areas of the Rioja region as a whole, meaning the grapes grown in these parts retain higher levels of acidity and lower levels of sugar, leading to more lighter-bodied, juicier, and generally more complex styles of wine.

Rioja Garnacha Classifications

In addition to the three distinct subregions mentioned above, the garnacha wines from the Rioja region can also be broken down into four easy-to-understand classifications.

Each of these classificaitons allows us to easily separate bottles of Rioja garnacha based upon the length of time they have spent ageing in both oak and bottle, which alludes to both the quality and the expected flavour profile of the wine inside. See our handy graphic below to discover how they’re separated.

Grenache in Australia

As discussed previously, grenache grapes thrive and work best in warmer climate territories, where the peak ripeness and sugar levels of the grape are really able to express themselves.

For this reason, many of the warm climate regions of Australia, in particular the Barossa Valley and the McLaren Vale, are perfect natural fits for the grape to be cultivated.

Unlike the other popular Spanish grape varietal, tempranillo, grenache vines were actually planted in Australia a long time ago, around the mid 19th century, meaning they have a long-established history in the country.

In fact, some wineries in Australia, like those in the two regions mentioned previously, still use the original grape vines planted all those years ago.

For this reason, it is important to examine the regions of the Barossa Valley and the McLaren Vale when looking to begin your tasting journey into grenache-based wines from Australia.

Barossa Valley Grenache

The Barossa Valley has existed as one of the leading producers of grenache-based wines in Australia for decades, courtesy of its warm climate and strong wine-producing heritage.

Some of the vines in the wineries themselves are centuries old, making the wines produced from the grapes grown there incredibly complex and flavoursome.

Barossa Valley Wine Region Map

As is the case with grenache-based wines made in the Rhône Valley in France, winemakers in the Barossa Valley often utilise grenache grapes alongside shiraz and mourvedre or mataro grape varietals, closely replicating the famous Rhône Valley Red Blend.

As a standalone varietal, however, the wines produced in the Barossa Valley from grenache grapes are known for their medium to sometimes full body and moderate levels of acidity, both combining in a wine with a complex flavour profile that often adds peppery spice and slight chocolate flavours alongside the more commonly found raspberry, strawberry, and sweet cherry notes.

To find out more information on the grenache grape as it exists in the Barossa Valley and in some other regions in Australia, be sure to visit this site, which provides further insights into the profile of the grape in that country.

McLaren Vale Grenache

Along with the nearby Barossa Valley region also in South Australia, the McLaren Vale wine-producing region is one of the most prolific producers of grenache wines in the country.

Like in the Barossa Valley, some of the grape vines in the wineries that exist there are centuries old, allowing for the production of grenache-based wines of unsurpassable quality.

McLaren Vale Wine Region Map

The McLaren Vale region is regarded as a warm climate wine-producing region, which allows for the production of wines with higher sugar levels and greater development of general fruit character.

It is for this reason that grenache grapes perform well in this area, and remains one of the primary causes behind the region's wines being so sought after, particularly their grenache, shiraz, and mourvedre or mataro blends.

The winemakers of the McLaren Vale are known to produce single-varietal grenache-based wines that possess a medium to sometimes full bodied character, with acidity often sitting around the more moderate levels, even in a warm climate.

In addition to these characteristics, the bottles of grenache wine from this area will often feature noticeable traces of peppery spice and sometimes vanilla and clove from ageing in oak, along with fruit and berry flavours of sweet cherry, raspberry, and strawberry.

This article here explains more about the history of the grenache grape globally and in Australia, as well as details some of the most sought after bottles available, for those looking to explore the category further.

Pairing Food with Grenache & Garnacha

When looking to pair food with grenache or garnacha wines it is always important to consider the origins of the bottle you’re looking to match.

Whether the bottle in question is coming from a more moderate or warmer climate, this will subtly affect the optimal food pairing recommendation, as the specific flavour profile of the wine can change.

Pairing Food with Grenache & Garnacha

Those bottles of grenache coming from more moderate climates, such as the Rhône Valley in Southern France, are often higher in their levels of acidity and slightly more subdued in their fruit character, with herbal and spice flavours coming into play.

This means they should ideally be paired with grilled or smoked fish, grilled vegetables, or light lamb or poultry dishes.

When considering the richer and more full-bodied examples of grenache or garnacha coming from the regions of Rioja in Spain or the Barossa Valley in Australia, match these bottles with meat-based pizzas, any kind of beef stew, or even glazed duck.

There's a bottle of grenache and garnacha out there for everyone. Here are some of the brands and bottles that we recommend you look out for the next time you're browsing online or in-store.

Smashberry Grenache 2019 Tasting Notes
This is a fruity & crowd-pleasing red wine that would be perfect if served slightly chilled thanks to its lack of tannins & moderate acidity.


2019 McLaren Vale Grenache
Young & Co Berry Riot 2018 Grenache Tasting Notes
With its light body & fruit-forward flavour profile, this French Grenache is a soft & approachable bottle of red wine.

Young & Co Berry Riot

2018 Southern France Grenache

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