Grenache or Garnacha is one of the most widely planted red wine grape varieties in the world. It ripens late, so it needs hot, dry conditions such as those found in Spain, where the grape most likely originated. It is also grown in the Italian isle of Sardinia, the south of France, Australia, and California's Monterey AVA and San Joaquin Valley.
It is generally spicy, berry-flavored and soft on the palate and produces wine with a relatively high alcohol content, but it needs careful control of yields for best results. Characteristic flavor profiles on Grenache include red fruit flavors (raspberry and strawberry) with a subtle, white pepper spice note. Grenache wines are highly prone to oxidation, with even young examples having the potential to show browning (or "bricking") coloration that can be noticed around the rim when evaluating the wine at an angle in the glass. As Grenache ages the wines tend to take on more leather and tar flavors Wines made from Grenache tend to lack acid, tannin and color, and it is often blended with other varieties such as Syrah, Carignan, Temprenillo, and Cinsault.
The Grenache vine is characterized by its strong wood canopy and upright growth. It has good wind tolerance (which is useful with the northerly Cierzo and Mistral winds that influence the regions of Aragon and the Rhone) and has shown itself to be very suited for the dry, warm windy climate around the Mediterrenean. The vine buds early and requires a long growing season in order to fully ripen. Grenache is often one of the last grapes to be harvested, often ripening weeks after Cabernet Sauvignon. The long ripening process allows the sugars in the grape to reach high levels, making Grenache-based wines capable of substantial alcohol levels, often at least 15% ABV. While the vine is generally vigorous, it is susceptible to various grape diseases that can affect the yield and quality of the grape production such as coulure, bunch rot and downy mildew due to the vine's tight grape clusters. Marginal and wet climates can increase Grenache's propensity to develop these viticultural dangers. The vine's drought resistance is dependent on the type of rootstcok it is planted on but on all types of rootstocks, Grenache seems to respond favorably to some degree of moisture stress.
Though Grenache is most often encountered in blended wines (such as the Rhone wines or GSM blends), varietal examples of Grenache do exist. As a blending component, Grenache is valued for the added body and fruitiness that it brings without added tannins. As a varietal, the grape's naturally low concentration of phenolics contribute to its pale color and lack of extract but viticultural practices and low yields can increase the concentrations of phenolic compounds. Grenache-based wines tend to be made for early consumption with its propensity for oxidation make it a poor candidate for long-term aging. However, producers (such as some examples from Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Priorat) who use low yields grown on poor soils can produce dense, concentrated wines that can benefit from cellaring. The fortified vin doux naturels of France and Australian "port-style" wines are protected from Grenache's propensity for oxidation by the fortification process and can usually be drinkable for two or three decades.
The characteristic notes of Grenache are berry fruit such as raspberries and strawberries. When yields are kept in check, Grenache-based wines can develop complex and intense notes of blackcurrants, black cherries, black olives, coffee, gingerbread, honey, leather, black pepper, tar, spices, and roasted nuts. When yields are increased, more overtly earthy and herbal notes emerge that tend to quickly fade on the palate. The very low-yielding old vines of Priorat can impart dark black fruits and notes of figs and tar with many traits similar to the Italian wine Amarone. Rosado or rosé Grenaches are often characterized by their strawberry and cream notes while fortified vin doux nautrels and Australian "port style" wines exhibits coffee and nutty tawny-like notes.