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The Garnacha Grape

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About Garnacha

(Synonyms: Abundante, Aleante, Aleantedi Rivalto, Aleante Poggiarelli, Alicant Blau, Alicante, Alicante Grenache, Aragones, Bois Jaune, Cannonaddu, Cannonadu Nieddu, Cannonau, Cannonau Selvaggio, Canonazo, Carignane rosso, Elegante, Francese, Gamay del Trasimeno, Garnaccho negro, Garnacha Comun, Garnacha negra, Garnacha Roja, Garnacha tinta, Garnatxa negra, Garnatxa Pais, Gironet, Granaccia, Granaxa, Grenache noir, Grenache rouge, Kek Grenache, Lladoner, Mencida, Navaro, Navarra, Navarre de la Dordogne, Navarro, Negru Calvese, Ranconnat, Red Grenache, Redondal, Retagliadu Nieddu, Rivesaltes, Roussillon Tinto, Roussillon, Rouvaillard, Sans Pareil, Santa Maria de Alcantara, Tentillo, Tintella, Tintilla, Tinto Menudo, Tinto Navalcarnero, Tocai rosso, Toledana, Uva di Spagna.)


Map showing lands under the Crown of Aragon

Garnacha is a red-wine grape originating in the Aragon region of northern Spain; from there, it was early on spread through the regions under the Aragonese realm, including southern France, whence it spread widely. Today, the grape—known by a plethora of names, but most commonly as either Garnacha (the name we use here) or Grenache—is extensively grown more or less throughout the wine-making world; Spain and France remain the chief suppliers, but the U.S. and Australia have growing reputations for the grape.

Curiously, it is only in modern times that Garnacha has climbed out of the status of a mediocre workhorse grape to that which it enjoys today, that of an eminent varietal. Garnacha can be bottled as a monovarietal, but in the Old World (as is of often the case) it is most used as an element of regional blends. In Spain, it is often blended with Tempranillo; in France, it is a key part of Rhône red blends.

Garnacha by nature is low in phenolics, and so tends toward lightness of color and body and low tannins. As usually vinified, a monovarietal Garnacha will be intended for early consumption, as it has a distinct tendency toward early oxidization. But when grown and vinified with suitable care, it can produce dense, chewy, powerful wines that will indeed cellar well.

The typical flavors of Garnachas are red fruit (strawberry/raspberry), tending in better specimens toward darker fruit (black cherry, blackcurrant) and complex overtones, often described as coffee, olive, honey, leather, tar, spice, and black pepper. In essence, there is a rather broad spectrum of wines, from simple early-drinkers to ageworthy and complex champions. Some remarkable quality-for-price bargains are readily available, especially from Spain.

Factoid: Garnacha has several related mutant grapes, some of which are valuable in their own right, including interalia Grenache Blanc, Grenache Rose, and Grenache Gris; it is also a parent (with Cabernet Sauvignon) of the modern cross Marselan.

Some Descriptions of Garnacha Wines

Some Garnachas to Try

(About this list.)

The biggest problem, really, was elimination. There are so many Garnachas from Spain at ludicrously low prices—so low they might scare away a potential buyer as signifying the plonkiest of plonk—that get multiple enthusiastic tasting reviews. The competition from other nations shows few recommended wines below our (arbitrary) cutoff point of $20, so this list is dominated by those bargin Spanish Garnachas, though with a couple of New World bottlings as well.

Sometimes we have to really hunt to find a sufficiency of reviews of this or that wine. But for each of these wines there was a huge parade, and we could easily have doubled each set of quotations (and all about equally fulsome. These are some popular wines indeed!

The quotations below are excerpts; we strenuously urge you to click on the green diamond symbol by each quoted review to see the full article.
Casa Castillo "El Molar"
(From Jumilla, Spain.)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.

Some quotations and facts about this wine:

It is light ruby color, very bright acidity (low pH?) and there’s no indication of alcohol plus the oak is also perfectly integrated. It shows a pinch of spices over the core of red berries along with some spring flowers and perhaps a distant lactic touch. The supple and tasty palate is medium-bodied and has a fluid texture, very fine tannins and good acidity. The well-defined flavors are clean and offer floral notes plus developing notes of orange peel. I think this is the best Molar so far. A real bargain. 93+ Points [Wine Advocate, February 2015]

***Good Value*** Very ripe and rounded style, juicy, broad and direct. Lots of sweetish sensations but not overripe. It has jammy fruit, toasty aromas and medicinal herbs character. It is still easy to drink despite the high alcohol content. The palate is today more expressive than the nose. [Jancis Robinson, May 2015]

Aromas of cherry cough drop, leather, tomato and raspberry lead to a chewy, jammy palate. Slightly salty flavors of plum and raspberry run short, while the finish is briny and sweetened by creamy oak notes. 88 points.

Clear, translucent-colored, clean, a little reticent in the nose with red fruits, strawberry, star anise and some toast from the oak. But the wine really reveals itself in the palate: still a little tannic, all the elements, fruit, acidity, the stems are in balance and the overall sensation is of a fresh wine, despite its 15% alcohol…This represents a completely new direction for the region, and a wine that should get more interesting as the vines mature and get older. It develops nicely in the glass. Drink 2014-2018. 92 points [erobertparker, October 2013]

[D]espite clocking a 15% alcohol content, it was so well balanced, had beautiful red fruit on the nose, a hint of oak, softer tannins but still with a little bite, went really well with all the foods on the table. I really enjoyed this wine.

Substantial (at 15-per-cent alcohol), smooth and structured, this Jumilla red comes across like espresso and chocolate drizzled over dark berries. 92 points.

Yangarra Estate Vineyard Old Vine Grenache
(From Australia.)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.

Some quotations and facts about this wine:

Scented elegance. Nothing overly sweet to the profile here. Redcurrant, cherry, aniseed, earth/spice. Tangy. Not thick or dense, but it makes an impression. Tannin is internally routed in a completely seamless/velvety fashion. 94 points. [Australian Wine Companion]

A terrific wine that reveals the heart and soul of McLaren Vale generosity. The aromas are all in the red to dark berry spectrum raspberry, boysenberry, mulberry right through to red plum and there's peppery spice and raisin notes too. The palate has power and drive: the tannins are crisp, gently grippy and very much the strength of the wine, leading to a long finish where plum flavors abound. 94points. [Decanter]

Matured in used French barriques, this nevertheless shows touches of toast and cedar alongside tart, fruit notes of cranberry and raspberry. It's full bodied and richly tannic, with crisp acids that accentuate the tannins on the finish. 88 points.

This wine from Yangarra brings a lot to the table but in a very clean and uncluttered manner…Inviting red and black fruit followed by peppery floral aromas waft from the glass, releasing the bountiful bouquet. Fruit forward with a core of subtle bright red fruit, the wine comes across deceptively simple in the mouth. Mid-palate the simplicity is unveiled as a tightly focused, well-structured, package that should be cherished by anyone fortunate enough to taste it.

I got violets on the nose but others may find different smells. There’s a soft, juicy, raspberry start, which is often why (in my opinion) grenache isn’t taken seriously. It’s from the centre to the end that the magic appears. Complex flavours emerge, twisting and dancing around each other as in a pagan rite of fertility. After the dance of flavours there is the soft tranquility of cool reflection on the beauty of the wine. 96 points. [The Keys Report]

The lightish colour is misleading: the wine has a cascade of red fruits, with a slightly unexpected brush fence of ripe tannins, important now as much as in the future, when they will fuse back into the wine. 95 points. [Halliday Wine Companion, 2017]

Bernabeleva Navaherreros Garnacha
(From Madrid, Spain. This is not the same as the "Camino de Navaherreros" bottling.)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.

Some quotations and facts about this wine:

[This wine] is a vibrant ruby in color with a wonderful perfume of raspberries, orange and herbs. The whole cluster fermentation gives a wine that’s vivid and fresh, with an earthy tang and a silky mouthfeel. It’s an incredibly elegant wine for the price…

Bright ruby-red. Flamboyant aromas of raspberry, Asian spices, pungent herbs and white pepper. Dense, juicy and focused, offering mineral-driven flavors of raspberry, spicecake and rose pastille. The incisive finish features silky tannins and an echo of juicy red fruit. This sexy wine is delicious right now. 92 points. [International Wine Cellar]

Has aromas that could remind you of a mixed berry compote, rich and sweet, but there’s higher tones of fennel, Chinese five spice and anise with a building scent of wet slate or granite. In the palate, a flash of fruit sweetness before the chew and pucker of really stony tannins builds and drags the wine to dryness. The tannin profile might be obtuse to sunny grenache styles of say, warm climate regions in Australia, but it’s utterly charming here. Those who like tannin, perfume and fruit purity, apply here. 93 points. [The Wine Front, January 2015]

The age of the vines range from 40 to 80 y.o. and vinification takes place in large format wood, stainless steel and/or concrete tanks, depending on the qualities of the each site in each vintage. Some whole bunches are retained, again proportionate with the style of the vintage and the wine is bottled without fining or filtering. The minimal oak influence means that purity and red berry freshness take the lead. Flaunting the Pinot-esque side of mountain Garnacha’s personality, this is a super sophisticated wine for the price, with a soaring perfume of red fruits, violets and something like hot rocks and well as a gentle structure and complexity from the 35-60 day fermentation. The palate is layered but crunchy, with the same notes as the nose as well as deft, sleek, rocky tannins. Stands out for it’s superb definition, freshness and savoury finesse.

Made from ancient vines grown in the hills to the west of Madrid, this is light in colour, with a delicate perfume of raspberry and thyme.

The Navaherreros Garnacha is their entry-level red and it’s a knockout…a sumptuous, full-bodied, red with remarkable liveliness on the finish. This wine is really alive, a genuine crowd pleaser, and for around $14 you can afford to satisfy quite a crowd. With your glass full of sweet cherry, raspberry and nutmeg, how about a paella or maybe a rich, warming beef stew?

Borsao Tres Picos Garnacha
(From Campo de Borja, Spain.)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.

Some quotations and facts about this wine:

The 2010 Bodegas Borsao Tres Picos Garnacha begins with a very strong aroma featuring lots of savory, ripe berry fruit (mainly raspberry, blueberry and blackberry) as well as licorice, dried herbs, spice and even a hint of chocolate. My first though on tasting this full-bodied wine was simply, "Yum!". You'll find loads of rich, concentrated, juicy, savory, berry fruit with nice overtones of smoked meat, pepper, oak and spice. Fine, sweet tannins and good acidity round out this tasty and ever so succulent wine. The finish is dry and long and features spicy mineral notes underneath more savory rich fruit that turns a bit tart at the end. Wonderful!

Made with old-vine garnacha grapes, this wine shows juicy raspberry, blackberry and cherry flavors, with a touch of smoke, herbs and spice. “It’s smooth, easy-drinking and delicious. It’s got clean flavors and nice acidity, which makes it food friendly,” Anderson [of the Dallas Morning News Wine Panel] said. “It’s nicely balanced and fantastic for the price.” Luscher noted that the peppery component of the lamb complemented the wine’s fruitiness. Flynn liked the minty character that the wine brought out in the lamb. At $12, this wine is a terrific value.

♣ Wine Advocate (October 2012), 92 points.

♣ International Wine Cellar (November 2011), 91 points.

♣ Wine Spectator (April 2012), 90 points; #67 on Wine Spectator's Top 100 Wines of 2006.

One of my favorite offerings from the Bodegas Borsao is the 6,000-case cuvee of the 2010 Tres Picos. Made from 100% Garnacha aged in equal parts stainless steel and French oak, this is the Bodegas Borsao’s interpretation of Chateauneuf du Pape. (But when’s the last time you saw a bottle of Chateauneuf du Pape priced at $17 – about 30 years ago?) Deep notes of roasted herbs, sweet black cherries and raspberries, peppers and spice soar from the glass of this dark ruby/purple-tinged wine. Full-bodied, rich, ripe, silky textured, pure and long, this unbelievable value should drink well for 3-4 years.

Glass-staining purple. Lively, faintly medicinal aromas of cherry, blueberry and licorice, plus hints of smoky herbs and flowers. Juicy and expansive, offering sweet, deeply pitched bitter cherry and dark berry flavors supported by a taut spine of acidity and fine-grained tannins. Finishes with powerful spicy thrust and suggestions of candied flowers and woodsmoke. This could pass for a northern Rhone wine, and a really good one at that.

This rich red is brimming with raspberry jam, chocolate, licorice and wild herb flavors. Firm tannins are well-integrated and buoyed by orange peel acidity. A lively modern style.

This wonderful Garnacha (Grenache) has a dark ruby, almost purple hue to its day-bright appearance. The nose doesn’t come across as super intense/in your face, but it is more graceful and elegant with aromas of juicy blackberry, and hints of under ripe strawberries. Once this wine opens up a bit in the glass the more pronounced aromas of this youthful wine jump out; loads of leather, cedar and white flowers with a touch of white pepper at the end. The palate is surprisingly soft with round, supple tannins. Creamy vanilla explodes all over your tongue with nuances of little white flowers and white pepper with just a touch of dark fruit at the back. I was pleasantly surprised by this wine because I was expecting something much more big and bold. I had a preconceived notion about wines from Spain all being big and in your face with loads of oak and spice. The soft, creamy texture of this wine broke down that ‘proverbial’ wall quite nicely! My friend and I decanted this wine for about 30 minutes at a temperature of about 23˚ C (73.4˚ F) initially, but then chilled the wine by sitting outside for a while. I noticed that bringing the temperature of this wine down opened up a lot more floral and black/blueberry tones. The creaminess maintained throughout but the vanilla notes also opened up dramatically, the cooler this wine became.

Ruby color with red fruit, leather and baking spice aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied and supple with medium acidity and strawberry, cherry, a bit of plum and spice flavors. Medium+ finish. Rating: B+: When I look for value, I look to Spain first, and this wine over-delivers at $13!

This 2009 version is explosively perfumed from the get-go with blackberry, dark cherry, graphite and pepper slathered with a nice aura of wood smoke. In the mouth, it's generous to a fault with intense flavors of dark fruits but with the lighter red cherry and raspberry fruit in the mix too. Well-focused with persistent flavors, it sustains a fine mélange of fruit, spice and smoke all the way to the finish. This is one well-rounded and smooth operator. There are only a handful of wines so consistent, thrifty and compelling year after year; Tres Picos flaunts flavor and complexity far beyond its price. A best buy.

The 2010 Borsao Garnacha Tres Picos from Campo de Borja, Spain, was named the 2012 Sommelier’s Choice by Sommelier Journal following an extensive nominating and blind-tasting process.

An intense ruby hue in the glass, this “Tres Picos” Garnacha from Bodegas Borsao offers a concentrated nose of plum fruit, blueberries and violets. There is a great intensity to these fruit aromas that can only be a product of the older vines and oak lends a subtle hint of clove spice as air slowly permeates this wine. Densely fruity in the mouth, this 2011 “Tres Picos” Garnacha leads with the direct dark fruit notes of plum and blueberries that are carried over from the nose, with some red cherry flavours also in evidence. The spicy oak notes of this wine emerge from the mid-palate and there is a lovely length to the rich, but surprisingly elegant fruit. A good level of acidity has been retained (despite the heat of Camp de Borja) and this helps significantly with the overall balance of this “Tres Picos” Garnacha. The tannins are approachable now (and this “Tres Picos” Garnacha is massively drinkable), but it could also be cellared through to 2016. 90 points

d'Arenberg "The Custodian" Grenache
(From McLaren Vale, Australia.)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.

Some quotations and facts about this wine:

Vivid ruby. Deeply pitched black raspberry and cherry compote scents are energized by a suggestion of cracked pepper. Fleshy and broad in the mouth, offering ripe red and dark berry flavors and a building element of medicinal bitterness. The gently tannic finish display resonating spiciness and very good persistence. 90 points. [Vinous
D'Arenberg is a champion of grenache and this is great bargain: a solid, full-flavoured red with abundant character at a paltry price. The bouquet is led by chocolate and vanilla with raspberry touches, joined by licorice on the palate. It has density and grip way above its station.

Sweet raspberry and cherry jam with citrus zest on the top and an earthy-tobacco undercurrent. It all adds up to a complex wine for the money, supported by gentle, chewy tannins. 90 points.

Ah, how much is this wine worth when d'Arenberg has two '12 Single Vineyard grenaches at $103 each? A more difficult question for the single vineyard wines than this, which is a drop-dead bargain, its fruit flavours given shape and persistence by fine grained, savoury/earthy tannins. 90 points. [James Halliday, The Australian Wine Companion, 2016]

Pale to medium ruby/purple, the 2012 The Custodian Grenache reveals aromas of crushed black raspberries and black cherries with roses and earth nuances. Medium to full-bodied, the palate ripe, silky and seductive palate finishes with good length. 90 points. [Wine Advocate, 20 August 2015]

On the quiet side for a Grenache, with reticent notes of spice, sangria and cassis. There's the faintest grip of tannin and a crisp, strawberry-inflected finish. 88 points.

d'Arenberg's preservation of old bush vine grenache in McLaren Vale continues to mean, in my humble opinion, that their grenache based wines are a cut above most and represent terrific quality for their price. The 2013 vintage of "The Custodian" is 100% grenache. Its aromatics remind of redcurrant, spice, chocolate and game. The palate is textured with fine grained and not insubstantial tannins considering it is a thin skinned variety. Good length on the finish completes an attractive wine.

Shatter Grenache
(Côtes Catalanes from France, though owned by Americans.)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.

Some quotations and facts about this wine:

[A] stunning Grenache from the Roussillon, in southern France. . . Red currants and wild cherries create a mesmerizing perfume, deepened by the time the lusciously textured fruit hits the palate. It even picks up some black fruit and, even deeper, anise along the way. The expected perky Grenache acidity is present but softened by the French oak (aged 12 months, 75% new). Long last the finish! Long live Shatter!

These grapes are grown in a slate like rocky soil called black schist that is nutrient poor but retains heat well, allowing the grapes to reach full maturity while experiencing cool nights. Strong winds and hot days cause shatter in the grape clusters, naturally thinning the fruit from the vines, producing intensely concentrated flavors. . . I loved this wine upon first sip and couldn’t believe it was French. I found it quite intense in color and flavor with dark berry and cherry leading to soft tannins and a luscious lingering finish. The longer this sat in the glass the more time it had to reveal its complexity and boldness. French wine made by California winemakers….A match made in heaven. Delicious – Buy some!

[T]his is a Phinney wine that happens to use Grenache as a vehicle rather than something remotely true to the varietal... its a deep, rich, borderline slutty wine that packs the heat, wood and power that one would expect... the experience is filled with Phinney's trademark black currant, plum, cassis, black cherry, olive, chocolate, smoke, singed vanilla and MONSTER oak... the tannins are grippy and the wine so fruit forward and over the top that Grenache purists need to steer clear... Taste 7, Nose 7, Value 7.

The 2010 Dave Phinney - Joel Gott Shatter Grenache begins with expressive aromas of ripe dark fruit (mostly blackberry and blueberry) along with lavender, spice and a little vanilla. A truly excellent bouquet. Tasting the wine reveals a bold, fruit forward Grenache with succulent blackberry flavors dominating; however, this is no one trick pony. There are also big (but smooth) tannins, lots of oaky spice, an excellent lush mouthfeel and a super long dry finish. This wine is quite fun to drink as it reveals more nuances as it has some time in the glass. More than a bold statement, this wine is audaciously good.

Rich, ripe with a strong backbone of dark berry flavor, Shatter surprises and delights in all aspects, especially for those of us who thrive on the deep, bold flavors found commonly in Cabernet Sauvignon or similarly hearty blends.

[I]nitial sips revealed a concentrated wine with intense fruit flavors and a black, mineral finish which clearly needed to be chilled down. It showed potential. With air there was a distinct highly extracted, dried fruit quality to the wine. It was not the sort of wine you could drink much of, it really was strong stuff. . . I think I approached this wine wrong. I was not tasting a red wine, I was tasting a twist on the traditional fortified wines of Maury. In Jancis Robinson’s article The archivist of Roussillon you may read that a Maury wine may not change even after two decades in barrel. This is different. It is evocative of Maury but may be drunk young and will certainly last for many days once the bottle is opened. Do not try this with dinner for you will be perplexed. Instead you should end your evening with a glass.

The distinct label with its intricate shattered crystals tempts the wine drinker to explore what’s in the heavy glass bottle. A deep purple red in the glass emits sweet aromas of dark fruit and ripe cherry. The muscular wine is 15 percent alcohol so handle with care. The reward is great: fruit forward blend with tight tannins that expand in the glass. Pour this exciting varietal with chili, spicy barbecue or dark chocolate.

It's medium-full with intriguing aromas of cooked meat, myrtle, plum and Queen Anne cherry; this has slightly richer tannins along with more obvious oak. This nicely displays the sensual, earthy side of Grenache; it's also a bit bold and has a bit too much oak influence. This can be enjoyed now, but it will be better in 3-5 years.

For a Splurge

A Garnacha supposedly a tad better than those above is Acùstic Celler "Auditori" Vinyes Velles Magiques de Garnatxa.

• That wine at 1000 Corks
• That wine at Wine Searcher
• Its Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.
• Its CellarTracker pages.





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