Grenache N (or Grenache Noir) is a black variety originating from Aragon, Spain, where it is called Garnacha. In the 15th century, the expansion of the Aragonese kingdom towards Sardinia, Corsica, Roussillon and the Provençal coast favored its development. Today, this grape variety is one of the most cultivated in the world.
A quality grape variety, it can give powerful, colorful and generous red wines, aromatic and silky rosé wines, and very sweet natural sweet wines with very high aging potential.
It was introduced in what is today France during the Middle Ages. According to Guy Lavignac, it was brought back by pilgrims returning from Saint-Jacques-de-Compostela. Other sources show a particular interest in this grape variety by Arnau de Vilanova because of its Catalan origins for making of wine alcohol remedies.
In France, it is one of the most cultivated grape varieties approaching 100,000 ha. It went from 24 800 ha in 1958 to 91 000 ha in 1994. It is present throughout the Mediterranean facade, in the vineyard of Languedoc-Roussillon, and that of the coasts of the Rhone, Corsica and Provence. It is present (sometimes mandatory) in rosé, red, and natural sweet wines in almost all the AOCs of these regions.
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 Mediterranean. 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 rootstock it is planted on but on all types of rootstocks, Grenache seems to respond favorably to some degree of moisture stress.
Grenache prefers hot, dry soils that are well drained but it is relatively adaptable to all vineyard soil types. In southern France, Grenache thrives on schist and granite soils and has responded well to the stony soil of Châteauneuf-du-Pape with the area’s galets roulés, heat-retentive stones. In Priorat, the crumbly schist soil of the region retains enough water to allow producers to avoid irrigation in the dry wine region. Vineyards with an overabundance of irrigation tend to produce pale colored wines with diluted flavors and excessive alcohol. Older vines with low yields can increase the concentration of phenolic compounds and produce darker, more tannic wines such as those found in the Priorat region of Spain where yields are often around 5-6 hectoliters/hectare (less than half a ton per acre). Yield control is intimately connected with the resulting quality of wine with yields below 35 hl/ha (2 tons/acre), such as those practiced by many Châteauneuf-du-Pape estates, producing very different wines to those with yields closer to 50 hl/ha (5 tons/acre) which is the base yield for Appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) wines labeled under the Côtes du Rhône designation. The strong wood canopy of Grenache makes the vine difficult to harvest with mechanical harvesters and pruning equipment, and more labor-intensive to cultivate. In highly mechanized wine regions, such as Australia and California, this has contributed to a decline in the vine’s popularity.
With its fairly high alcohol and low tannin content, the weather in southern France is perfect and the range of soil types allows a full expression of a broad-ranging array of aromas from strawberry and blackcurrant to white flowers and spices.
Production area in 2018: 81 100 ha (200 402 acres)