Garnacha Grenache

The Oldest Wine You've Never Heard Of

Saturday, January 21, 2017 Louis Vasseur

One of the world’s oldest grapes has suffered from a sort of “Rodney Dangerfield” complex – it doesn’t get a lot of respect.  Garnacha, also known as Grenache, has been produced in Spain since Roman times.  Up until the 1990s, Garnacha had more planted acreage than Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir. It remains one of the most widely planted red wine variety in the world.  Grown extensively in Spain, France, Australia, and the United States, Garnacha is often used as a blending component, adding body and sweet fruitiness to a wine without added tannins.  As such, Garnacha is responsible for some of the most delicious and exalted wines in world – from exalted regions like Chateauneuf du Pape to cult California wines.  But Garnacha stands up well on its own as well.  Garnacha wines can be red or white, sweet or even rose, capable of great diversity.

This versatile grape, once known as “Red Aragon”, is making a comeback in its Spanish birthplace.  A growing number in the wine world feel Garnacha wines deserve to once again be recognized for its contributions for great wines. In the last 20 years, a new generation of winemakers have taken a new approach to producing Garnacha varietal wines. Wine of Garnacha, an association regrouping producers from the birthplace of Garnacha (eastern Spain), in partnership with the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Environment and the European Union are collaborating to promote Garnacha wines in key export markets such as the United States, to reveal the grape’s true origin and potential.  For the past several months, Wines of Garnacha tasting events have taken place in liquor stores, grocery stores, and other selling venues throughout the Chicago area, allowing customers the chance to experience these wines.

A thinned-skin, medium-bodied grape, Garnacha ripens late so it needs hot, dry conditions. The Catalyund is a hot growing region in Spain where the late ripening Garnacha grapes can get very high sugar levels.  It is generally spicy with notes of red fruit, baking spices, orange zest, and herbs.  The ripe grapes usually ferment to a relatively high alcohol content (above 15%) which add body and spice.

Sometimes dubbed the most food friendly grape in the world, pairing Garnacha is easy and full of possibilities.  The spice in Garnacha makes it a perfect pairing buddy to spicy and herb foods.  Alcohol is a solvent to capsacin, which is the heat unit in spicy foods.  A high alcohol Garnacha can help reduce the burn of spicy foods.

Accessible to both experienced and casual wine drinkers, Garnacha wines offer fantastic value in terms of their quality.  The Wines of Garnacha tasting events provide a great opportunity to reacquaint yourself with the oldest wine you’ve never heard of.  To learn more, checkout

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